20 February 2013

An Alliance of Writers

by Carrie Bailey

While illustrating my book, Bungle of Oz, I've been listening to free audiobook downloads. I have a confession to make before I explain what I came across this morning. I prefer non-fiction. As a fiction writer, I've never been able to justify fully this, but I've settled on one favorite excuse. Reading non-fiction is a lot like buying paint in an art supply store. Every new shade, every new color adds to my palate. Sure, I could mix all the colors myself from black, white, red, yellow and blue. Is it as fun? No. It's a great feeling to skip over fifty other shades of grey to pick up a tube of iron or charcoal.

Palandragon of Oz - the glass cat of Oz
The Palandragon of Oz
I don't promote myself as an artist often. But as I was listening to Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill this morning-I'm on self-help book binge by the way, I heard the 19th century guru express my reasoning why better than I could. What he said resonated with me. He was talking about how to develop a mastermind alliance. Too bad you can't add an echo effect to text. Master-master-master mind-mind-mind alliance-ce-ce....

People can be critical and discouraging even when it's not their intention to drain your life of its vital essence.* And we can be susceptible to negativity on a subconscious level even need convincing by this guy who interviewed all the most successful men of his era. So why don't I share my art? Tired of the criticism. My main source of artistic discouragement came from my mother and step-father. My own father's interest in his art had left my mother to endure financial hardship while he kept his creative integrity intact. In other words, he didn't paint to sell. On a good day, my mother can draw rather well-formed stick men. She didn't paint at all. At the first sign of my budding artistic talent, I was promptly discouraged. Without the resentment characteristic of all proper artists, I can say this was meant to save me from art school and/or starvation.

Now that I write, I'm dealing a similar dilemma. "Writing is a waste of time. Why don't you go back to your art?" They say. But, that's not the only sort of discouragement I experience. People assume I know that within their personal and private thought processes that they think my work is pretty good despite the fact they never say so. And that gives them license to privately point out every minor fault I have, right? Then, they check up and make sure I've spent hours acting on their unrequested recommendations, because they're my new personal manager, right? Yeah, we call that boundary issues. But, sometimes. Sometimes. I just plain get the evil eye.

Evil eye getting you down?
Try hamsa! 
We've all experienced this at sometime or another in one way or another. It's what underlies at of conflicts between friends. It can be the source of sibling rivalry. It even happens at work. One time I got an interview for a better library job than I was currently working and I asked the people at my library for advice. My supervisor gave me encouragement and suggested skills to emphasize during the interview while my coworker interrupted her over and over to suggest the worst possible things to do. Tell jokes about being a registered sex offender. Offer them a bribe. He had never tried to be funny before and there was a hint of anger in his tone. I was embarrassed for him and him? He wanted me in jail. 

Discouragement happens likes this, sometimes it's pathetic, other times it stings like betrayal and often, it doesn't make sense. "This is not the way. Take heed and go no further." And just like when Hoggle was in the labyrinth with Sarah, "you get a lot of it, especially when you're on the right path." **  

Enough about all that negativity though. How do we overcome these obstacles? Hill recommended not telling anyone who wasn't throughly supportive of your plans what they actually entailed. He also said we ought to surround ourselves with a mastermind alliance of no more than a dozen people. Very specific. He had reasons for it, too. The master mind alliance isn't a short list of people who say everything you do is good. They believe in you and tell you the truth, which is a rare combination no matter how good or bad you are at your craft.

I'm often asked by my good-friends why my less-than-good friends get under my skin so easily. Hill just shined a light on this problem for me as I worked on my coffee this morning. See, I tell everybody everything when I'm excited. I'm creating something. I'm happy. I want everyone to share that feeling. But, they don't share that feeling. Quite the opposite actually.  

Still, I do need what Hill calls a mastermind alliance. I need a writer's alliance. We all do.

And I need to shut up sometimes. 

The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society
Psst! It's free on
Peevish Penman only.

* Yep, that's a Dark Crystal reference.
** And that's from the Labyrinth. It's a 1980s Jim Henson sort of day.


  1. Carrie, I love this piece and I spoke to me. I will bookmark it forever. thank you so much for letting me be a part of this alliance. (I am IN, right?!) i wonder how we can take things further, you know, second base... and help each other with our bigger projects? :) -M

    1. Mol, you are absolutely a vital member of this alliance. We absolutely need to hold a meeting to get this sorted. We've got the right people... now, let's see what we can achieve. :D

  2. I can relate to this all too well. I have created an inner circle of support and it has made such a big difference. I think your illustrations are terrific. I often find it difficult to split my time between are and writing. I imagine you do too. I tend to over share and run into people who want to steal my joy and happiness over what I am creating. Most of the time I can ignore them and remember what they say is more about them than about me, but other days it is hard to shake off.

    1. That's one of the things I got from Hill. He said that it effects us subconsciously. I know this is true. I can identify when I'm getting discouraged or criticized, but even though I know what it is, I'm not invincible.

      Most sources of negativity don't realize their doing it. I caught myself on deviant art posting comments. I evaluate and encourage people with real talent when I see it, right? Well, one time I was blown away by the most stunning piece ever and I commented by saying the nose was slightly crooked. It took me 15 minutes of studying it before I noticed it. Why did I point that out? Because she was so much more developed an artist than I am that I assumed she could handle it and also for some reason, I thought she didn't already realize that. That's almost never true though. I see all my mistakes and shortcomings rather clearly. :)