17 August 2010

The Writer's Personal History of Not Being Heard

by Carrie Bailey

There's a good chance that if you're a writer at some point in time, even your pet goldfish swam away and swished its tail at you when you just desperately wanted to be heard.  It seemed no one would listen.  Maybe your parents and siblings were perfect and available to hear your every childish whim.  I doubt it though.


The paper holds what our family's attention could not.  Today @pirate_bb told me via Twitter that she wants to be a writer, but does not have the support of her family.  I suspected that she turned to writing to be heard and it made sense to me that her family wouldn't listen when she declared her desire to write professionally.  Ah, what's what?  The sound of thousands of writers rolling their eyes and sighing?  Yes, yes I think that is what it was.

To progress to stage two: accept that you do not need permission to write...they can't stop you!!! And, you can even write about them.  Waaaah ha hahaha!!


I love chatting with @hoodedman, because he's a fiercely independent writer without apologizing for it.  He has been writing what he wants to read since the 70s and his fans love him for defending artistic integrity with passion.  He keeps me reminded of this truth.

No matter where we are in our careers, the paper still waits to soak in what we need it to take away.  The skill we develop in this process molds and shapes our communication style.  As we learn the technique, our hands fumble over the covers and pages of authors' work we enjoyed.  They changed our lives.  We choose pen, paper, or keyboard, because we follow their example.

To progress to stage two: Feel the power of the written word!!


Today @slushpilehero tweeted:

@PeevishPenman i tend to like kind of odd stuff, stuff that cuts right to the bones, you know? ones that make you think.
I understood.  The distinction of genres help us to identify immediately which writers get us.  I mean that it honestly happens in that order.  We read people who understand us.  It may seem to be the other way around, but it isn't.  @Slushpilehero and I both adore the work of @JeremyCShipp, not because simply because he's an odd genius who continuously rearranges the cosmos for our entertainment, but because deep down (ha! that's doublespeak for on the surface) we're odd, too.

Everyone browses the libraries and bookstores for people they identify with.  Those authors honed their craft to the point that we understood that they understood us.  Ah, isn't it great to be understood?  

To progress to stage three: Listen! Read! And then bask in the glorious epiphany that comes disguised as the sneaking suspicion that if you are willing to pick up someone else's book, someone else may want to pick up yours.


We were heard!  At least, a bit.  Someone read our writing and what they said indicated that they even paid attention...to parts...the ones we let them see anyway. 

Maybe it wasn't the best experience.  Whether they said so or not, we knew we started as amateurs though we continued because we also knew we were undiscovered geniuses needing discovery or that our message mattered. 

To progress to stage five:  Breathe in and breathe out.  Repeat. Grab a paper bag and tell yourself its going to be okay.  Yes, your critics are always wrong and just jealous, but you do need to work on your grammar and punctuation or whatever it was... 


Write for readers and read for writers.  Let this cycle continue wildly onward spinning out of control.  You're communicating now.  You're heard a little more each time.  You've arrived. 

While the world rages around us, remember those individuals who put pen to paper, finger pads to key pads and saved us from not being heard through their example.  Then, do that for others.  Be true to yourself so that others can as follow that example.  Be funny, sad, blunt, romantic, clever, dark... and entertain even.

Do not deny your readers and the future writers.  Every time you write, you give others permission to follow your example.  Every time you share your work, you pave the way like a pioneer with a pen.  Each criticism you endure and each time you recover from self doubt, you tell some one just like you that they have the right to be heard and forge the wilderness of artistic freedom.  It doesn't matter what you write about...

Don't wait for permission.  Don't wait for anyone to say that they will read your work or support your career.  You do not require the support of the people closest to you if they will not give it.  Just write and you will be heard. 

P.S. goldfish never listen.


  1. Excellent advice! "Just write and you will be heard" is a very good mantra for any writer.

    I, too, admire @JeremyCShipp and his work. And I'm not saying this just because I don't want the Attic Clowns to pay me a visit. Truly. :)

  2. GREAT post. OMG I needed to hear that. I don't have a goldfish (I have a bad habit of overfeeding them) but when no one else will listen at least my dog will.

    This piece of advice struck a chord with me: "accept that you do not need permission to write...they can't stop you!!!"
    >> Yes! 100% agree and think I should write that on a piece of paper and pin it to my wall.

  3. I am so terrified of the attic clowns, but I got a signed book from Jeremy with a cartoon on it!! It is my favorite ever.

    Thanks you guys!

  4. Sometimes I think it's good not to be heard. I know my family & friends love me, but they're not reading those small literary journals I'm publishing in, and that gives me the freedom to explore certain topics (sex, religion) that might make them uncomfortable...So I guess I've found one of the few benefits of writing in obscurity. ;)

  5. Ah, but that's the idea... you don't need your family to hear you. But, you are being heard by someone somewhere.

    PS. My family does not read Peevish Penman :(.

  6. Occasionally we do! Great topic. Love, Mama

  7. LOVE this post!!!! Not enough nice things to say about it. Just so true.

  8. Expressing yourself is most important. Being heard is only a great extra.