An empty crowd

We are surrounded by a crowd. I have always thought a team would huddle prior to a match–but there is no huddling here. There is a cheering, roaring, mass of people, singing for themselves and each other. There is an energy in the air that sparkles like lighting, fierce, determined to strike. There is an announcer who breaks in on the loudspeaker, and a hush descends. But it’s not a true silence, there can be no stillness here.

The swimmers line up, the youngest girls first; heat one begins with a shrill. And the yelling resumes. The cheering. I am shocked when it’s my son’s turn and I’m kneeling at the feet of the timekeepers shouting his name as loudly as I can. He reaches the edge of the pool and knows he’s not first–he came second and he’s unhappy, but he’s clapped on the back too many times to count, given high fives, and told what a good job he did. A minute later he’s smiling, already eager for the following swim meet a week later.

This is new for me: This is the first summer any of my children have joined a team.Β I was never part of a team for long; I played right forward in inter-city soccer when I was a kid, but I don’t remember it being long-lived–and more importantly I don’t remember this type of team spirit.Β When I trained professionally with a dance troupe there was no cheering, no unification among us. As an adult when I began to play a musical instrument there was no team.

Today a professional violinist who just came back from touring in Poland expressed how unified the orchestra is over there. How they cheer each other on before each show, how the crowd surrounds them at the end of each concert demanding autographs. She expressed to me how gratifying it is, how encouraging it is, to know that others treasure your art.

Writers, painters, illustrators, musicians, we do it alone. We have no crowd, no one cheering us. Most of our work is solitary, often times behind a closed a door, always behind a metaphorical one.

And yet, we need this gratification do we not?

Last week, Linda posted about this very topic in her post, Writing in a Bubble. When a few days later I was at my son’s swim meet and I saw the effect such cheerleading had on all the kids I was stunned. And I thought–how we do it all alone? How do we keep writing if we don’t have anyone behind us, cheering us on.

Yes, there is the gratification in the release, the voices that don’t stop shouting until we write them down, the stories that become so real to us we want to inhabit them all the time. But, it’s not always like that. There is work. Years of it. And most of us do it alone.

A few weeks back I was at a local coffee shop and a painter was hanging up her work. She told me she’d never had a vernissage, never joined a group, never put her work on display anywhere. And she’d been painting for her greater than thirty years. I wondered how in all that time she didn’t have a need to share what she created.

I know that as a writer, I am encouraged when others read my work, when I’m caught totally off guard by someone approaching me and saying they read X by me and loved it, or totally related to it. It feels good. It feels like I’ve connected with the universe in some small way, but in a way big enough to satisfy me. But most of the time that doesn’t happen. Most of what I write will never be read at all.

I’m left wondering, how do we as writers and artists, keep going at all alone, with only ourselves as our very own cheerleader?

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28 thoughts on “An empty crowd

  1. I think there is a difference between doing something for your own pleasure, to quiet the voices, as you said, and doing that same thing with the intent to share it. When I used to write stories just for myself, I was indeed my own cheerleader. But when I started to write with an intent to publish, I needed assurance that my writing was worthy to be shared.

    I can’t imagine being part of a performance group or team and not cheering for each other. How sad. How counterproductive.

    And thank you for the link. πŸ™‚

    • So, Linda, it is the act of publishing, of sharing, that leads to the need for supporters, do you think? We need that acknowledgment, that recognition, maybe not necessarily that we’re good enough (because we all read and know that there’s really no such thing as good enough) but that others will like what we make.
      It’s a good point, that differentiation.
      So for those us who write for publication w/o that support, do you think it’s dangling there like a carrot, or do we just not need it?

      • In answer to your first question, yes. I publish to share, to connect, so I can’t imagine continuing to publish if no one liked what I wrote.

        Concerning the second question, I needed that support to enable me to publish. It was my guarantee that others would like what I published because a sampling of readers already had.

        I could not have finished the long process of conceiving, writing, and editing a work for publication without a cheerleader. I imagine writers who can, are more confident, not only in their ability to write well, but in their understanding of what readers want.

      • You mentioned this on your response to me in you post, Linda. I kept quiet because I’m not sure that I actually am more confident than you. At least not all the time. I can have my lows, I guess we all can. Maybe for more me it’s more a matter of trusting in fate (yes, I realize how corny that sounds). It just feels right, like this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and if I hold out long enough and work hard enough I’ll get there.

  2. I did write for many years without being cheered on. I did it because something within me urged me on. I had a knowing that, in order for me to have my own place in the world, I needed to express myself. What felt good and right for me was express myself through writing. In the beginning I needed to prove to myself that I could be published, and i had to do it alone. Now, I do have people cheering me on and it feels really good. It’s helped me through some rough times. A wonderful post, Jennifer.

    • Hi Laura. I’ve been continously amazed by what you’ve accomplished all on your own. I think you are very unique in your accomplishments going at it solo. And you did it, trusting in youself. It’s inspiring.

      I’m really glad to hear that you’ve found that team spirit now–that you were confident enough to find it–and that it’s helping you out. Nothing like a little support πŸ™‚

  3. I think this is why we enjoy blogging and other social media, because we build a team of cheer leaders. I for one, appreciate all the encouragement I get from my social media writer friends. Great post Jennifer.

  4. vanyieck says:

    That’s a great illustration. I don’t know what keeps me going. I don’t often get feedback. I haven’t been published very often. I write because it’s what I’ve always done. Sometimes I suffer from the usual neuroses and wonder if my writing is good enough of if my writing will be appreciated. Those times eventually pass and I just keep writing.

    • I think that just about every writer I know has spoken of these times when they doubt their ability, Vanyieck. In fact there is only one writer I’ve encountered that never has, and that writer seems stagnant, never growing. Perhaps these lows, when we question ourselves, is what enable us to learn and progress. I’d like to think it does, anyway πŸ™‚

  5. I used to write alone, but I very much have a team now. It might not be the biggest team, but it’s a wonderful team all the same. If I ever start to flail, I know someone will be there to give me a little boost, to nudge me back on track (or straight out tell me to get over my ludicrous feelings of uselessness and get back to writing! NOW!). I think as Linda mentioned above, if I didn’t want to publish, I could do it alone, but having this support crew backing me makes it much easier to stretch myself and aim for publication.

    • Hi JC!! I’ve been able to tell over time that you have a strong surpport crew based on your posts. I’ve always been impressed at what you’ve managed to set up. Good for you.

      As for publication, I realized I need feedback in order to produce the best work I can. However, to me this is not the same as a support group. My feedback crew is really a repair crew who make a report of the damage that I need to fix. πŸ™‚

      Come to think of it, when I need that cheering I’ll turn to my mom to rally me on. hehe.

  6. I loved your post! Yes, it’s so true we are alone in this writing world…or are we? Before I joined the wonderful world of WordPress I had no support at all, no feedback, advice or pointers in the right direction. I’m so very grateful to the few friends I’ve made already. We write, paint, dance or make music because we must – it’s part of who we are.

    Finding others who feel the necessity, the urge, the longing to express what we observe and feel as strongly as we do is a real gift.

  7. I love your voice.
    In writing and in training for endurance sports, accepting that some of the most personal rewarding and challenging times will only receive the applause of “one hand clapping.” In the Texas heat, I am sometimes “poured out like water” in trying to get my training in. The personal victories and defeats, I achieve and endure are generally under the radar. Writing is the same. It is a sort of silent crucible where I pour out myself in silence , if only to free the muse, and to know for myself that I have lived my best and did my best.

    • “It is a sort of silent crucible where I pour out myself in silence , if only to free the muse, and to know for myself that I have lived my best and did my best.”

      So beautifully said, Marvin!
      Thanks for sharing such a gorgeous sentiment. It really resonates with me πŸ™‚

  8. It’s easier if we create a support system. Spouses, friends, family, fans, and other writers. Honest people who will lift us up when we get down, when the trolls of life pull out all the stops and attack us for something we wrote and they disagree with.

  9. Hello Jennifer πŸ™‚ Just stumbled across you through various bloggers and wanted to say…….Great blog! I agree we all need a little backing/cheering on. Especially when we’re falling in that awful pit of self doubt. Having someone to bounce my ideas off of, and help me work through one of those sticky plot situations, keeps me a little more sane. I look forward to more of your posts!

    • Hi Sonia, and welcome. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get bak to you, we’ve been in the midst of a family emergency the last week and a half.
      It’s good to have a support system. I often need to chat through plot ideas when I’m confused or stumped. And just having people to edge us on is a boost to keep us going.
      Thanks for the comment!

      • My condolences to you for your Grandma, may you have lots of happy memories to keep her forever in your thoughts πŸ™‚
        It’s great to have such a welcoming community to just “be yourself” with….it sure helps when you have something to say and people actually listen, give pointers, or dust you off and set you back upright when you’ve fallen off the edge…lol Thanks for the reply. I look forward to your future blogs!

      • Thank you, Sonya, I do have a ton of memories of her. I am very grateful for the relationship I had with her.

        Blogging is a great to gather that support!
        Thanks for the sentiment, I appreciate it.

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