Encouraging Words · 21 March 2008

Encouraging words can be dangerous. Take this column and my website for instance. Even though I love to write, I am not sure that my words merit a place in a local newspaper. Or a website for that matter. I am not sure that I should even dream of a larger audience than a couple real and a few imaginary readers. Yet even with my doubts, I continue to write. And if my ambitions of publication and a larger audience are misguided, it is all because of a few encouraging words.

I have had lots of encouraging words from lots of different people when it comes to my writing. Teachers, friends, and acquaintances have told me that I write well. I love that encouragement, but I sometimes wonder if they like my writing because they like me. I believe that they are sincere but I can not help but wonder if they are just being nice. I wonder because I remember getting English papers back with lots of red pen marks. It looked like blood was smeared all over them. It felt like blood too – the blood of my soul being ripped out of those papers on which I had worked so hard. But I kept writing because among all those red marks, my teachers said that I had some promise. Their encouraging words kept me writing.

I have had friends at church and school and work tell me that they like my writing. They have seen my book or my website or my column in the paper or maybe even a poem that I wrote long ago and they tell me that they like what they read. Like I said, I wonder if they are just being nice until they give me specific things that they liked or when they tell me about memories that my writing brought back. Then, I can not help but feel good about writing. Even as I am reaching to pat myself on the back, I am humbled when I hear that they laughed or cried when they read something I wrote. Their kind words help to keep me writing.

Encouraging words from one of my friends helped me decide to write a weekly column and send it to The River Current News. He helped encourage me to put up my own website where I publish my column every week whether it makes the paper or not. He even helped me edit a kid’s chapter book. I see him every day and his words of encouragement help to keep me writing.

As encouraging as all my supporters have been, the words that have helped me the most in my writing have been the critical ones. A few years ago, I had collected a bunch of stories into what I thought could be a book. After reading it, a friend of mine said that it was probably not marketable. Though her words seem harsh, they were true and they gave me resolve to either prove her wrong or create something better. I ended up putting together a children’s chapter book with some of those stories. Another friend’s critical remarks as a tough editor of that book helped me make it into something special. Both of my friends helped me to see that the reality of publishing is: if the book can not sell, it will not get printed. My two friends who gave what might seem like discouraging words helped spur me on to what I hope is better writing.

Everybody loves encouraging words. We all love to hear that what we are doing makes a difference in somebody’s life. Whether the a person is driving the bus that we ride, running the office where we work, or making the food where we eat, everybody wants to hear the words, “Thank you,” or “You are doing a great job.” Everybody likes to be appreciated and encouraged.

For me, whether anybody says those words anymore, the damage has been done. Whether my audience grows from those couple real and a few imaginary readers, I will continue to write because enough people have given me enough encouraging words to last a lifetime. I will continue to write. Thank you for the encouraging words. Even if you were just saying them to be nice.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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