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Monday, September 14, 2015

Healing Writer Wounds

I’ll never forget the last time I saw her at a conference. I had been friends with Matilda (not her real name) for years. She was sitting at the bar, just hanging out, and I joined her. After all, that’s how our friendship had been year after year. But that year, something was different. Matilda seemed annoyed that I was there, and I noticed that she spent the whole time looking around the bar for other people. We had a brief, polite conversation, and then, when a bestselling author entered the room, Matilda ditched me. Our emails, rather than being the usual friendly sort, turned into her assistant very politely blowing me off. Basically, once Matilda’s star rose, she left me behind as a friend.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and it’s taken me a while to come up with this post. Because it hurts to go there. It hurts to be reminded of how, when Matilda needed help with a book, I contributed what ended up being the meat of a chapter, and in her acknowledgements, she thanked big name authors who, in separate conversations that they initiated, mentioned being surprised because they’d had nothing to do with her book. Yet, despite everything I’d done to help her, I’d gone completely unacknowledged. Not that I did it for the acknowledgement. As a friend, I’d been happy to help. But it became really clear that she saw people like me as people to use on her path to success, and once my usefulness was over, I no longer existed.

I wish I could say that Matilda was the only friend who did this to me. I have several friends, now bestselling authors, whose early careers I helped, who no longer acknowledge our friendship because I’m no longer an asset to their career.

So why do I share this story? It’s not so that you feel sorry for me, or question my judgement in helping friends who clearly aren’t, or even to get back at Matilda. I purposely hid her name and identifying details because my goal is not to hurt Matilda. She’s a fine writer, and I still believe in her work. I just think she was a lousy friend to me, and her actions really hurt me.

But here is the point: a friend of mine emailed me to tell me that she was interested in my retreat, but the real problem with why she’s stuck in her writing is that another writer hurt her and she can’t get past it. Boy, do I know that problem. So many Matildas in my life, and other hurts, and sometimes writing is hard. I have friends struggling with hurts from harsh editors, betrayals from friends, mean reviews, and a lot of negativity in their writing business. And guess what? They sit in writing paralysis based on those hurts.

I know that paralysis all too well. For a long time, I was afraid to be a successful author because I didn’t want to turn into the kind of jerk who abandoned all my friends because I was more successful than them. It was more important to me to be a good friend who was there for her friends than it was to be a successful author. For some reason, I thought those two things were mutually exclusive.

What a crock!

I realized that I have many friends who are successful authors, friends who are not about stepping on others to get ahead, but are reaching their hands down to pull others up. And that’s the kind of author I intend to be.

But here’s the thing: That wound paralyzed me for a long time. 

The wounds many of my friends have been dealing with are keeping them from moving forward in their writing careers.

Part of the work we’ll be doing at my retreat is looking at those wounds, and seeing how they’re holding us back. But also, finding healing for those wounds. One of the ways we writers are lacking in nourishment is in finding healing for our wounds. The wounds we carry, if they’re still festering, are shackles that bind us to the past and prevent us from moving forward. However, when we find healing for our wounds, we find the freedom we need to move forward in confidence toward success.
I can’t promise that if you come to my retreat that you’ll find full healing. But my goal, and my hope, is that you’ll be able to identify those wounds, and identify ways of dealing with them, so that you can move in the direction of healing.

If someone has wounded you in a way that has hurt your writing, you owe it to yourself to find healing. 

Carrying that wound doesn’t affect the other person at all- it just hurts you. I’m pretty sure that Matilda isn’t sitting at home, thinking about how awful it is that she hurt me. She looks at herself in the mirror every day and doesn’t give me a second thought. And that’s okay! So why do I spend so much energy worrying about her? The most freeing thing in my life has been healing that wound. 

And I want to help you find that same healing.

Obviously, my blog is a little too public for you all to pour out your hearts. But if you’d like to share on the topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you found healing for wounds? And if you’re struggling with a wound, and need to chat, feel free to email me privately at danica@danicafavorite.com.


Unknown said...

I recently wrote a blog about expectations over at laurengreenewrites.com. And I talked about this, because I once had a friend who told me I had too many expectations. I give to my friends and expect nothing in return at this point, and letting go of that expectation has allowed me to heal and move on from unhealthy friendships. It's still hard when someone treats me badly and unfairly. I so understand the way you felt. Your retreat sounds amazing!

Danica Favorite said...

Lauren, so true about expectations! It's such a struggle balancing expectations with good, healthy friendships. It's true you can't expect too much, but you also don't want to be a doormat. (Says the recovering doormat) I'll have to read your post!

I'd love to have you come to the retreat, so let me know if there are any questions I can answer.

Sherri Shackelford said...

It's tough - it can be as much jealousy as anything else.

BelleC said...

Wonderful blog post, Danica. There seems to be a lot of this going around. I can honestly say that my true writer friends have never been mean-spirited, but I have to say that I have recently been the victim of some pretty nasty, jealousy-based stuff. I haven't let it stop me or affect my writing, but it did make me scratch my head that "Christian writers" could be so nasty. In the end, you're always going to be who you are, Danica. And that is really what centers us. The knowledge that no one else can sandbag us or who we are.

Unknown said...

Well said, Danica! Your honest and genuine demeanor are refreshing. The kindness you showed to me at our first encounter during an online chat was so encouraging. Your acceptance of me as a person and aspiring writer have bolstered my spirits on many occasions. Thanks for the reminder of what true friendship is. Your post made me think of how forgiving others frees us to move forward and out of our pain. Letting go of the hurt is liberating. Like you said, it's not hurting them, so why let it hurt us? I'd rather have a cup of tea with a real friend any day. Let's do that the next time we're in the same town.

Anna Adams said...

Danica, you're so kind to everyone you meet. You deserve better! Your retreat sounds amazing. If my baby weren't having a baby about then, I'd be there! If you hold it next year... I'm going to remember this blog post. Thanks!

Katharine said...


But this isn't my year.

What an honest post. I'm sorry it happened to you. This industry is too small and too competitive for us to be nasty to each other. Seeing myself now at the bar with you. Let's toast to friends, new and old, who join us with integrity on our journeys!

Gina Conroy said...

Thank you for sharing your story and for putting on this retreat.

Serena Chase said...

Yes. A thousand times, yes. So many Matildas making so many "I'll scratch your back, if" promises, with so few delivering. It is disheartening. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... perhaps a third time...and I'll probably help you out anyway, but... I will be wary. *And yet* ... there are still those special few who are the exact opposite, whose star shines brightly and beautifully and humbly even on those of us who have not yet ascended into their level of the publishing atmosphere--or their mastery of the craft. I am blessed to have several of those in my life and I hope that is the person I remain, regardless of whatever success I may or may not achieve.

Danica Favorite said...

Thanks Sherri! You are totally right. A lot of how other people treat us is merely a projection of how they feel about themselves and their insecurities.

Thanks Belle. I'm so sorry to hear that you're dealing with professional jealousy. And I'm pretty sure I'll stay grounded if I ever get famous. I have a number of pacts with friends who will kick my butt if I turn into a jerk. :)

Angel, thank you for that sweet comment and your kind words. And yes, it's a date. Tea it is!

Anna thank you so much! I will definitely do it again, so stay tuned!

Katharine, yes!! Toasting right there with you. I think that's where I found a lot of healing. For every Matilda out there, I have so many other wonderful friends, and those are the ones who get my time and energy. Very thankful for the good folk I know!!

You're welcome, Gina!

Serena, so true. It makes me sad that you've experienced this, but also very happy to know that you, too, have the support of amazing people... and you know, that's where I put my energy. I figure if enough of us shine brightly in love, you can't see the dark clouds trying to ruin it all.