The power of the “Atta Girl”

Chesterton- 1Ally

You know what? As a teacher of fiction writing I don’t exactly tick all the boxes.

I procrastinate when grading papers.

I change my mind about assignment deadlines.

I don’t have written lecture notes.

My pasted-together “textbooks” are so fat they’re laughable, being stuffed with quotations and articles. That other people have written, not me.

Sometimes I even forget to take roll.

And I spend way too much class time talking piffle.

What I do–or try to do–is to encourage and inspire my students to write. Basically, I’m passing on the support and “Atta Girls” I’ve been given through the years.

Would I have made it into publication without thoughtful feedback from supportive fellow writers? I think not. Affirmation is powerful stuff. As Chesterton reminds us, one ally, one supportive friend, makes all the difference.

Here is how J.R.R. Tolkien put it, speaking of his friendship with C.S. Lewis:

“The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than just a private hobby.”

So…on this fine Monday morning, who can you come alongside and encourage?

8 thoughts on “The power of the “Atta Girl”

    1. It’s a jungle out there. Nice to know we have one another’s backs.

      Something Pamela Aidan told me years ago: “We write into a howling wilderness. We must expect the wolves to whine.”


  1. So what’s wrong with me? Atta girls just don’t seem to work. I”m motivated by the negative. And only immediate negative, not even threats of future pain. Cattle prod connected to my chair> I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many days you function in Overwhelmed Mode, with many demands on your emotions and time. And you are writing, my friend, just not as much—and not as quickly—as you’d like. Keep at those 500 words a session, several times a week. Page by page your book grows.


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