My Support Group Hates Me
Just for fun: Here’s a Contributor’s Note I wrote in a memoir workshop recently. The assignment was to play with a creative version of what might appear in the back if we were ever to publish a book.
“Lynda Smith Hoggan first began publishing poems and articles in Philadelphia in the ’70’s. She suspected that her publications were probably some kind of fluke and realized that she needed guidance. She joined a women’s poetry group. She knew that the budding feminist sisterhood would give her the support she needed.
“Girl, your poetry ain’t,” said the militant black lesbian. “It just doesn’t speak to the depth of my core,” said the overweight vegetarian. “Dear, I’m sorry, but you just don’t write very well,” said the sorrowful homemaker. To each other they made comments like, “I see how you’re trying to connect with the infinite, and you’re almost there,” or “Your imagery is powerful; I feel the dark well of your pain.” For Lynda they had no suggestions for improvement, only blank looks every time she read.
Every week Lynda left the meeting trying not to cry, usually failing before she reached home. She wanted so badly to quit the group, leave those snarling bitches behind, but somehow she felt that quitting would only give credence to what they said.
The last session of the group was a reading at the University of Pennsylvania that was open to the public. To Lynda’s dismay, the room was full. Women and men sat stiffly on narrow wooden chairs, faces tilted upward in anticipation. As the other women read their work, the audience clapped politely, occasionally exchanging a raised eyebrow, approving nod or smile. Then Lynda heard her name. She shuffled to the front of the room as if her shoelaces were shackled together. She stood under the narrow beam of a bare lightbulb like the ones used to grill jailbirds. Her papers shook, rattling like chains against the microphone until she laid them on the podium. Her voice cracked as she began to read.
She did not read poetry. Instead she selected from some prose pieces that she had worked on in a writing class. They were strange, colorful stories about a summer romance with a Mafia hit man, a threesome between Olive Oyl and her suitors, and how some men have sex with chickens. When she finished, the room was silent. Then it erupted in applause, shouts of “Yeah!” and a few people who even jumped to their feet. Suddenly Lynda felt as if the beam were a warm spotlight, highlighting not her crime against language but a ‘get out of jail free’ card that might encourage her to go elsewhere and keep writing.
Afterward, as she stood drinking wine and receiving one after another in a line of congratulators and well-wishers, she saw the women from the poetry group standing off to the side. They watched her suspiciously, as if she had indeed pilfered something. She raised her plastic cup to them and smiled.”
With just a little poetic license, that story really happened. It was one of a series of events that made me think maybe I could put words together after all. I’ve had both encouragement and discouragement over the years, and my writing has sometimes been in fits and starts. Lately there are more starts than fits, and I’m glad I didn’t let that unsupportive support group define me.*
Imagine that you have just written a book. What do you think you would write about in your own Contributor’s Note?
Poets do it metaphorically, man.
*This is the first blog post that I didn’t tie in some way to Licking the Spoon the book, a work in progress about food, sex and relationships. That’s because I have enough done on that book to try to interest a publisher. In the meantime, I’ve moved on to another project on memoir, and future blog posts may touch upon a wider variety of topics. But at their heart will always be Licking the Spoon the concept, a desire to live life with gusto. For me, that includes returning to my passion for creative writing.
53 thoughts on “My Support Group Hates Me”
One always need to be creative and confident In order to stand out in the crowd😊💪🏽 if I ever wrote a book it will be about the person I was in the past and the person I am today✌🏼️
That journey is the most interesting one of all!
I really enjoy your stories as you give so many details to help envision what is actually happening. I am glad you did not let those mean haters stop you from doing what you love. You were able to prove everyone wrong and show them what you are capable of.
Thank you! I’m glad I had the courage to stand up for myself.
That is awesome. This story is a great inspiration to anyone that has stumbled before but overcome the circumstances to deliver in the end. I definitely enjoyed this post. I would write what my greatest inspiration is and how I strive to follow through with my goals in life leading up to that book.
That would be a great thing to write about! I’m glad you enjoyed mine.
This was truly amazing. I mean obviously I would not be as experienced as you as a writer but this really speaks to me because I also am a scared, aspiring writer. This was inspirational and pushed me a little to keep developing my stories.
If I wrote a book I would mention how I am a timid person who was never able to speak her ideas and her stories but the world inside her head was as vast as it can be. All she truly wanted to do was tell people her story and it took several little pushes until she was able to finally write all her stories about the world inside her head down on paper.
This was amazing. Thank you for that little push.
I’m so happy you shared that! And I hope you keep building on that little push because the world needs to hear about the vastness inside your mind.
Being a writer or expressing yourself in anyway is difficult because it opens yourself up for criticism. As a musician, I constantly feel like my songs or topics that I write about will not be good enough. I feel that my writing will not connect with anyone and people will think my songs will suck. However, I put that aside because I believe that since I love what I doing, everything will work out. I also feel that if I am able to connect with one person or a few, then my songs meant something. You may have been criticized a lot in the past but your blog postings have entertained and made everyone think about certain subjects, which is a great thing in my opinion.
Thank you! And you too with your music! One thing I’ve learned from going to writers’ conferences is that most artists are insecure about their work.
I’ve had so many people try to bring me down and discourage me. I used to always think they were better than me since all of them would gang up on me for no particular reason. Your support group was just jealous. Now i just do what ever I want no matter what people think. Confidence is key!
A lot of put-downs do have jealousy as their root.
I’m upset to know that you almost got discouraged from doing something you really love. I know I’ve been discouraged from doing thing because of the lack of support I get. Quite upsetting how no encouragement can have a similar effect to hearing negative comments.
Maybe it would help for all of us to be taught as children that there are always going to be people who discourage us, but we can rise above them.
That was very Inspiring. It is very hard to at that situation to just go up on stage and perform something unexpected by the crowd. If I was at that situation I could have not gotten up on stage because It is really hard to meet people’s expectation. We all have something we are good at in life. When you tried poetry, It may have not worked but by going out there with the thing you are good at you captured them with expectation beyond what they were looking for.
It was scary, but in the end it was worth it, Adriel!
This was an amazing article. It makes you realize that no matter how many times people bring you down, you just have to keep going and overcome the difficulties.
If I ever wrote a book, I would write my journey through life and all of the obstacles I had to overcome to become the person I am today. I would love to write a book that inspires and motivates people the way this article did for me. 🙂
Thank you so much. I think you should try! 🙂
What a great and heartwarming story this was! I always love stories where the underdog, who truly never was an underdog, breaks his or her bonds around him, and completely disprove the naysayers that discouraged him or her. Reading your blogs, and now especially this article, has encouraged me to rekindle my writing efforts. I used to write poetry, blogs, plays, and musicals (If you have time, you should search up “Alice in Wonderland: the Musical” and “Doctor Who: the Musical” on YouTube under the RHS Choirs page). Your story has reminded me of the importance of writing, and how it is an outlet for my mind. Thank you for reminding me of this, and I wish you the best with your future writing endeavors!
I hope you truly do make time for your writing. It’s a wonderful outlet for creativity, thoughts, feelings, imagination.
This is very inspiring because I think everyone can relate about having some assholes try to put them down. I’m glad you never gave up because your stories and writing style is intriguing. I think if I wrote a book it’d be about how I overcame my inner demons and how I’ve used that push to want to be successful.
That would make a great book, because people like to be inspired!
What a great uplifting story. It goes to show that there will be people that will try to discourage us but those people in hindsight are the ones who light a fire under us and only drive us to be even better. There is always a silver lining we just have to overcome the fears to see it. Wonderful, inspiring story! If I wrote a book it would be about overcoming my fears as well and the success that I have achieved by doing so as well. Thank you for sharing!
I am taking one of the classes that professor Hogan is teaching and it is crazy to think that she went through this kind of treatment because she seems like a pretty nice person so I don’t get why they wouldn’t just say like hey you aren’t that good. That would be better then all that were saying. Also, it was cool to see how this even instead of making her feel bad and quite on it she instead took it and ran with it allowing her to move forward and in her own word “put words together”. I’m a big believer in standing up for yourself and figuring it out. Im glad it all worked out and maybe my class can hear a poem eventually.
I guess they just didn’t like my poetry, but that was OK, because I found out I’m better at writing some other kinds of things anyway.
Pardon my language but screw them snotty bitches. They could of been a little nicer and a little more poetic haha. Still congrats none the less and what a nice way to shove your glory in their faces! Anyways, what an inspiring story and I’m glad you got through that obstacle. If I had just wrote a book it would be about women’s empowerment. Heck it can feature Beyoncé’s song called “Who run the world? GIRLS! “
Girl power! I love it, too! That’s why I was a bit surprised those women were not more supportive. They didn’t have to like my writing, but they didn’t have to make me feel like shit, either. I didn’t add that after my reading, another group of women approached me and asked me to join their group.
I liked this, a lot! It shows to never give up on your goals. Sometimes in life we have to continuously persevere through negativity from others to get to the end.
If I ever wrote a book I would make it an inspirational/motivational book. I might be young but I have many different accounts from my life that I can say I’ve grown from to be a strong person. I do a lot of work with high school teens and it’s a great feeling knowing and seeing the impact our group of leaders can make on them to show them that they’re not alone and always have someone there for them.
Kudos for your work with teens. I think everyone holds some inspiration inside them – let it out!
Amazing when you smiled and raised your glass at those woman who doubted you!! Haha good for you! Great things happen with time and hard work!
I guess I was in the upper position at that point, not that I wanted to be upper, I wanted us all to be equal. But I think they learned something, and I was glad I stuck to it.
CL began writing creatively in her college courses but later was discouraged by the same people that pledged to counsel her- her professors. So she decided to quit her dream of writing. She sought guidance from life itself and her peers which were of much help to her.
Good one! I also had some discouragement from professors (OK, mostly one), but luckily, a lot who were encouraging, too.
I think is always good to be different and people will always hate! If you want to write a book, i beleive it is important to write the honest truth and i would actually like to read it! I find your story informative but also helps other learn from your downfalls and help them see the light at the end of the tunnle!
I am glad people seem to like to read what I write. Thank you!
Very inspirational!! You have to be odd to be number 1
I’m glad it’s inspiring! Thanks for reading.
congratulations on the first article you feel like you dont have to self promote as much! a publisher! awesome! that brings to mind a question about your book, its been a year anniversary since a publisher got on board. So, this is semi personal so ignore if u view it personally. how far along are you in your book?
im curious how long it would take for me to get a good chunk of writing done however i am thinking it would take a year to write 2 chapters for me. i suppose everyone is different that is the source behind this question. just a ballpark range. and how much is your book going to cost? coming from a potential customer(my book comes signed of course)
So just to clarify, I don’t have a publisher, and the first book I worked on is on the back burner for now. I’m excited about the memoir that I’m writing in which I am on Chapter 8 of the first draft. Some people write fast, some slow, partly it’s a matter of finding your stride. But I’ll tell you one thing: It doesn’t happen unless you do one thing a published author told to me – BIC. BIC stands for butt in chair. Thinking about writing will not get anything written for you, only doing it – whether fast or slow – will.
Its amazing that the people who are supposed to encourage you are the people who try to knock you down. This story is extremely motivating. Success is the greatest revenge!
You just paraphrased a famous quote: “Living well is the best revenge.”
I had a similar experience although it was simply with the fact that I was incredibly shy growing up and a performance doing Shakespeare I would say cured me of that. For weeks I had people saying “he can actually talk”, it seems crazy looking back on how much I didn’t say but ultimately I got there eventually. It’s all about taking risks and not being afraid.
I too was very shy throughout school. It’s sad how easily insecurity can cause us to clam up. But I’m glad Shakespeare cured you!
Professor I have one word to say about those discouraging women is they HATED on you! They knew your a good writer and they were jealous of your poems. So, they ended up saying horrible things to you that way you can quit. But, I am glad you showed them that your way better than them by NOT quiting! Also, I can believe that they are WOMEN and instead of supporting you they were putting you down smh!
Yes, and this was in the earlier days of the feminist movement when women were trying to be supportive of each other – I was stunned. Even if they didn’t like my poetry, they could have been nicer.
I’m overjoyed thanks to the happy ending. Reading a couple articles of yours, I’ve noticed the impeccable imagery and grammar you use to make the blogs engaging. Many people only hope to be at your level one day. As for the women in the unsupportive poetry group.. you showed them! I hoped their jaws dropped during your speech!
Haha! And they did! Thanks for reading – and for the kind words!
It doesn’t sound like your support group was much of a support group at all. They were more of a catty group. It’s funny how people in and connected to academia have a tendency to put one another down in some way. My mentions how her scientist colleagues do it all the time. Here I was hoping that the “humanities” were immune to such things… *sigh*. Oh well. At least you were able to make them eat their words. Good for you!
You know, I hate to say it but humans will be humans. Sadly, sometimes we can be quite petty. And I’m not a vindictive person, but occasionally it feels to see someone ‘get theirs,’ as it were.
How can the support group not be very supportive?! These type of situations where you overcome adversity and the lack of belief from the individuals around you is truly inspiring. That is unfortunately how some people are, they want to despise other people success.
I know, huh! It’s not easy to go forward when others try to hold you back, but it’s the only way to go where you want.
This is a very inspirational story, to never let other people’s words or action affect you. Women should be supporting one another, I am glad to see what you overcame.
Thank you, and I am, too. I’m glad I didn’t let them get me down.
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