Lift Each Other Up & Other Advice from a Ladies' Lunch
by Anna Fricke, Women Scribes Co-Founder.
I was recently fortunate enough to be in a room with nineteen female writers. They were poets, novelists, screenwriters. They were all ages, all ethnicities. They were moms and lesbians and girlfriends and single. They were brilliant and awe-inspiring, and I truly don’t say this lightly because I am a typically cynical and self-loathing sort. I am dubious of luncheons and “messages.” But this luncheon was held in the same spirit of what Liz and I are trying to do here; support women and give them a voice. And every moment I sat in that room, when I wasn’t thinking that it was getting a little hot and that I would have to pee soon, I was thinking that I felt… better. Less angry. Less resentful. More hopeful. Less inclined to shop online and more inclined to finish my outline. These women were talking about how they got their first big break, whatever that meant to them. It seems fitting to share their observations with you.
- Men tend to help others when they have reached the high point of success themselves. As in, once I’m boss, I’ve totally got your back. Women tend to help each other as they go along. I can say that this is true for me. I was young and fearful when I had my first job. I was constantly afraid of a misstep. I used to email my fears and questions about everything from office etiquette to “seriously, did my first draft suck?” to my colleague who worked down the hall. She would email me back soothingly, truthfully, about all of my questions and concerns. We grew to call our exchanges “Bunker to Bunker.” To this day, when we have a question or fear about this business, we write to each other as we did then. The point being: embrace your fear. Don’t be afraid to show your soft underbelly to a trusted female colleague. We need to be able to talk about what the voices in our head are telling us. And if you are on the receiving end of these questions, these concerns – be generous, be kind. There is too much bloodlust in this business, too much vying to knock each other off the ladder. Let’s support each other as women and make it safe in the bunker. We have a better chance of survival when the hatch door opens if we are in it together.
- Keep. Writing. Just keep going. Sometimes we feel like people are telling us to shut up, and they probably are, but it DOESN’T MATTER. Sometimes you will be robbed of credit. Sometimes you will be put in creative jail for things that have nothing to do with your work. You will be underestimated, you will be passed over. Don’t get bitter. Lean on a friend, listen to her ideas for what you should do next. Hear her when she offers help. Say yes. Keep doing the work.
- An observation on rage: it is very easy to give into the rage. Instead, when something goes wrong for you, help someone else and it helps you, too. I can say for a fact that this is true.
- Have goals. Goals for the week, goals for a year. Even when you get an agent, even when you get a job, YOU are the one responsible for the kind of writer you want to be and the kind of work you want to do. Decide who you are, then remember who you are. Hold onto yourself.
- Holding onto yourself means giving yourself the space, every now and then, to only work on yourself. This last part is the hardest for me to remember. I am a wife and a mother, I am a working writer. There is no time or space to think. I hear about writers’ retreats and workshops and I think, no, no, I couldn’t possibly. But then someone at this luncheon said, regarding entering their cottage at a writers’ retreat, “I didn’t have to be a wife, or a mother, or a friend. I didn’t have to be anything to anyone else. I just had to sit and think and do the work.” When I heard these words, I honestly started to cry. Because women are so used to taking care of other people, so wired to put others first, it is sometimes impossible to take a breath and step back and realize that you need to take the time for yourself. I am making it a priority to find a way to take this time. Never forget, no matter how busy your lives get, that you need to protect your individuality.
- Also, having a glass of wine with brilliant women in the middle of the day is very soul cleansing.