Thursday, July 24, 2014

The “Me” File—Why Writers (and Everyone) Should Have One

These days I supervise one person—me. It’s not that hard to keep track of how I'm doing, and most of the time, I'm a generous, supportive, encouraging boss. I will probably work for me until I retire! 

As a manager in a company for many years, however, I supervised other people. In part to help me develop meaningful annual performance reviews, I asked everyone who reported to me to please keep a “Me” File with hard copies of  any communication that contained praise related to their work, even notes they wrote themselves about verbal praise they received—including from me. It was a wonderful tool for us both to ensure I didn't forget or was unaware of all their accomplishments. 

I also knew, however, that keeping those records was a means for them to reach for a confidence booster whenever they needed one. When they, as I too sometimes did, felt misunderstood, rejected, or generally like a "failure"; actually “messed up”; or weren’t sure if what they did mattered. In my opinion, everyone should keep a “Me” File of some kind. This is not an exercise in self-involvement or self-praise; it's an exercise in self-awareness and valid self-encouragement. 

Writers, too, sometimes feel down, unworthy, rejected . . . feelings that can come at them full force some days. (Surprise! Editors have those days too.) Here are some “Me” File ideas for writers:
·         Don't let people who only give negative critique sabotage your "Me" File.  You’ll give up before you even start if everyone who gives you feedback only has negative things to say. Don’t let those who tend to withhold deserved encouragement do that. Even a single entry can be significant when you need it. 

·         Don’t let the positive slip by. If you tend to zero in on negative feedback, you might let positive feedback go unnoticed. Train yourself to look for it—in emails, in editorial notes . . . everywhere. It will be there more often than you think.

·         Save the positive, not the negative. Don’t put the negatives in your “Me” File. Address them if they are valid, of course, but rely on the positives for confidence-boosting. You are not playing “ostrich hiding in the sand.” You are gathering encouragement, especially for when you need it.

·         Include encouragement of your own. You know when you have done a good job, even if no other person seems to have noticed. So write yourself up! And if you have favorite inspirational quotes or books or Bible passages that especially remind you that you are indeed a unique person of worth, use them for continued encouragement. It’s wise to remind yourself who (or whose) you are, not just focus on what you are or do.

For readers, don’t dismiss the idea of a “Me” File if you are not a writer. Whatever you do (stay-at-home parents and volunteers included!), record positive feedback—even from yourself.

For writers, if you start a “Me” File, what sources of encouragement can you place there right away?

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