April 30, 2013

On Affirmation - by Susan Barclay

Writers crave affirmation, and I've been blessed to be surrounded by people who've believed in my gifting. From my mother, who encouraged me to write down the songs and stories I verbalized at a very young age, to my husband, who said 'yes' when I talked with him about quitting my 'day job' to pursue the dream. And to those in between and beyond.

There was my grade three teacher - Mrs. Weiss - who, years later, could still recite the conclusion to a story I wrote in her class. There was my grade ten and twelve English teacher, Mrs. Michna, who with her enthusiasm, enlarged my passion for literature. And what would the discussion be without referencing my grade 13 Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Weir, who told us all to forget about writing? Plumbing was certainly a respectable profession. Not quite affirmation, but he explained privately that it was his way of motivating us to prove him wrong.

Writing for pleasure took a back seat during my university years, and it was only after I married and was on maternity leave with my first child that I started writing again. Perhaps not surprisingly, my efforts turned to children's picture books. Fast forward a few years, and the decision to pursue the dream meets up with the formation of a local writers' group. With the first meeting just hours away, I manage to drum up a page-worth of words for an initial submission. At the evening gathering one of the writers seems awestruck after reading my piece. "You have enough substance here for a novel," he says.

A novel? The thought hadn't entered my mind. But now it does, and it lingers there, urging me on. Fast forward again; the writers' group membership has shifted and changed, morphing into something new, something good and solid. My novel too has taken shape. One evening, Jenn, one of the other writers says, "I could see this being a One Book, One Community read someday." I am stunned.

I pass my work under the eyes of various Writers-in Residence. Wayson Choy, famed Canadian author of The Jade Peony among others, meets with me. "You are a writer," he says. Wow. He probably says that to all the participants, but still. Wow.

In grade 7, my son misses a visit with author Eric Walters at his school. His classmates tell him he missed an amazing event, but he just shrugs. "I live with an author," he says. "My mom writes books." I love my son :) Who else his age would prefer me to Eric?

I hope you have people in your life who encourage your writing, as I have. We writers can be very hard on ourselves and need others to believe in us and spur us on. With all those rejection letters, we discourage easily. But if God has truly given us the gift of communication and imagination, we need to keep going, trusting that He will open doors for our work to find readers. We have to rely on His affirmation most of all.

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. ~ George Mueller


For more of my writing, please visit my blog Notes From Innisfree and my website.


  1. This is a beautiful post Susan! Now I"m intrigued to hear the conclusion that your teacher could quote, and I'd love to meet your son and shake his hand. His words would be the greatest compliment I could ever receive from one of my kids.

    Thanks for sharing the personal milestones that encouraged you to write throughout the years.

    Us writerly folk gotta stick together and affirm each other. (0:

  2. Susan, I so enjoyed catching a glimpse of your writing journey so far. Like Kimberley, I love your son's comment about living with an author.

  3. I'm sure we can all look back to those encouragers that spurred us on. Like you, I had several teachers that did that for me, and as a teacher myself, I try to pass it on to those that have 'the gift'.


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