12 In Writer's Life/ Thoughts & Observations

Keeping Your Boat Afloat – You Need Water AND Air

I’d be full of crap if I said yesterday was anything short of awesome.  You see, my first manuscript, Unexpected Eden, ended up in the finals for The Golden Pen contest for the paranormal category.

Now, some of you might be saying, “Um, Rhenna…it’s just the finals.”

Yeah, I know.  But this is a big milestone for me.  Not just because of the final, but because it’s the first time a complete stranger said, “Hey, I like your book.”

The whole thing got me thinking—which, if you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time, you know is dangerous.  And I’ll warn you in advance, this is one of my think, think, think, Pooh moments.


Ever since I started networking and learning from other writers and editors, I’ve been surrounded with astounding support.  When I went to my first local writer’s meeting, no one laughed at me (even though they should have). They patiently nudged me, bit by bit, showing me what needed improvement and what I did well.  Without them, I wonder if I’d have made it through some of my, “Should I be doing this?” moments.

As I grew, they were there, cheering me on, telling me to stay the course and believe in myself.  They told me they believed in me, so I kept going.

And then I got the notice that I’d placed in the finals yesterday.

I read the comments and nearly cried.  Not because they were bad, but because they moved me so deeply it was kind of hard to contain the emotion and, like a ginormous wuss, I teared up.

So, my question—now that I’m leveling off of my milestone high (or not):  Why is it the comments or actions of strangers (both good and bad) can affect us more deeply than those close to us?

Obviously, the initial answer is objectivity.  Strangers don’t know us, so they are under zero obligation to sugar coat things for us.  Right?

My idealistic mind chimed in right behind that thought and said, “They may be objective, but whose opinions do you value more?  Those close to you with your best interest at heart?  Or those you may never hear from again?”


Let’s look at this from a different, non-writing angle.

Say you cut your hair, got a new outfit, or lost that pesky five-ten pounds you’ve been wrestling.  If your significant other and a stranger complimented you on that special item on the same day, which would hold more weight?

And that’s when I found my answer.

Comments and encouragements from strangers are like wind in a boat’s sails.  Sometimes they’re steady.  Sometimes they’re powerful—almost violent.  But they act as a kind of fuel to keep you going.  The water that keeps my boat afloat—that keeps me from drowning—comes from the comments and encouragements of those close to me.  Those I trust.  They’ll stay with me long after the gust of wind has passed me by, even though the air is needed to keep me moving forward.  They both have value.

What about you?  How do the comments you receive from those close to you versus strangers impact you?  How do they shape your drive?  You’re vision?

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  • Reply
    Marianna Ramondetta Heusler
    October 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I think you’re right. Strangers can be more objective, but family will be honest, besides they know how far you’ve come. I guess the challenge is to manage to believe in ourselves, even when no compliments are forth coming from anyone.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    This is one of the most beautiful and poignant posts you’ve ever written. Absolutely beautiful and well written.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Um, Rhenna? NOBODY who’s ever entered something that’s a part of themselves (writing, painting, quilting, anything like that) in a contest of any kind is going to say, “but it’s only the finals.”
    That’s HUGE!!! I’m thrilled to pieces for you!
    Before I knew a single writer, I entered a short story contest. I took 2nd place! I was jumping-up-and-down-doing-flips-over-the-moon excited!
    The fact that there were only two entries in the contest didn’t matter. (Yes, 2nd place was also last place. LOL) I didn’t make any apologies, either. I was one happy camper!
    And the reason why strangers make such an impact? Because the people who know you are nice. We’re going to find nice things to say, and a nice way to say things that aren’t so good. Like when you get your hair done and it really doesn’t look so good, but you ask your family/friends, “How do you like it?”
    Most people in your life will answer at least a, “Oh? New ‘do? Yeah, like it.” Nobody will tell you that you look like a dodo bird dumped on your head.
    But if a total stranger comes up and raves over your hair and wants to know where you get it done and who does it and takes pictures and you can hardly get away because they’re going on and on, it’s a BIG SUPRISING WOOHOO MOMENT.
    I have a feeling there were more than two entries in this contest. And the judge really liked it!
    That, Miss Rhenna, is a BIG WHOPPING WOOHOO MOMENT!
    CEL! A! BRATE!

    • Reply
      October 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Trying to figure out how long I can use this as an excuse for un-rationalized red velvet cupcakes…

      • Reply
        October 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

        A day and a half.

  • Reply
    Karen McFarland
    October 2, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Rhenna, there’s a special feeling when we receive validation for our work/art. Congratulations girl! I’m doing the happy dance with ya. Good going! 🙂

    • Reply
      October 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Thanks, Karen!

  • Reply
    T.D. Hart
    October 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Hammer, meet nail.

    What a great, insightful way to think about this, Rhenna. And you’re exactly right; without our family and close friends we’d sink. But without the ‘pressure’ of outside influences we’d stay in one place.

    Man, can I pick friends, or what? 😉

    • Reply
      October 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Funny. I say that about you after every one of our talks. 🙂

  • Reply
    CJ Burright
    October 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Great analogy and WOOO-HOOOOOO!!!! So proud of you!!

  • Reply
    Shan Jeniah Burton
    October 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm


    So cool that you were in the finals! There’s nothing small or insignificant about that. It’s wonderful, and you’ve earned all the pride and joy that you feel.

    I have family members whose opinion, positive or not, doesn’t mean much to me. These are people whose agendas include using others – praising or shaming to accomplish personal goals rather than out of honest feeling.

    I think a part of it, for me, is about how the comment came to be. It’s often not too threatening to show my writing to family members or friends I know will be kind, even when they are being honest about lacks.

    But strangers…

    I can’t just hand something to a stranger, in the same way. I need to make a much larger leap of faith, and leave my comfort zone far behind.

    So, when someone I’ve never met likes or comments positively on something I’ve shared, I value not only the praise, but also the effort and courage required to put it out there in the first place.

    This is an amazing and thought-provoking post, and I am happy to add a little wind to your sails.

    And this background color? Delicious! =)

    • Reply
      October 4, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Yeah! Glad you like the switch up. I was in a dark, disturbed, egg-plantish mood. 🙂

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