Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cheerleaders, a guest post from @MelissaTRomo

About the time I started writing my first novel, a friend of mine, who had been working on her first, was just starting to swim in the dissolving bits of her marriage. It turns out that she was married to a person I call the “anti-cheerleader.” Maybe he thought he was being helpful, but he wasn't. You can't do this. It's a long shot, you shouldn't really try. When are you going to move on to something else? I don't want you to be disappointed.

When we met recently to catch up, she marveled that I was at the point of being able to pitch my novel to agents. She had never gotten that far. How did you ever do it? she asked. Guiltily, I immediately knew the answer and didn't really want to confess it to her. It had nothing to do with me being a better writer, or more disciplined. I just had this ace in my corner: a spouse who knew how to be a good cheerleader.

Whenever I tell my friends that he's the reason I was able to finish a novel, they all offer a that's nice kind of smile. That can't be the only reason. But, really, I'm here to tell you it is. The voice of the spouse or significant other is insanely loud, for good or ill. Her novel was in a drawer. Mine was ready to pitch.

Why do the cheerleaders and anti-cheerleaders in our writing lives have such an impact? For me, it had something to do with staying on the course I set for myself. There are moments during my writing life when I definitely start scanning the room for the exit. It's not because I don't like writing. I love it. Stringing together words that work just right is the best drug there is.

But sometimes writing can seem just plain difficult, and rewards and validation only seem to come so often. I hate to admit it, but sometimes the question Why am I doing this? does enter my mind. I can't tell you how many times I've called my husband, reciting a posting for a “real job” from But he knows I want to write, so he hangs up on me.

When a writer has those moments when they might want to throw in the towel, that’s when cheerleaders make the difference. Even by hanging up. Spouses, significant others, friends, family, whoever.

But like I said, the spouse’s or significant other’s voice in particular is insanely loud and powerful. This person tied their life to mine. They must know something I don't know.

I thought about myself in those moments of doubt and having the anti-cheerleader saying things to me like what my friend's husband said. I would have headed for the exit in the first five minutes. A lot of good, talented people would have. Like any long, lonely race, writing can challenge your fortitude. Like a long-distance runner, you might hear a little voice that says Owww, this hurts. When can we take a break?

But I got very, very lucky. Every time I get close to the exit, I hear the voice of the person I had the dumb good fortune to tie my life to whispering Keep going. Come back around after you've done a little more. You can do it. And the other cheerleaders who've since looped arms with him say the same thing. You can do it. Don't give it up.

I'm nothing special. If I make anything out of this journey, it's because of the cheerleaders in my corner who keep me on course. If you know a writer, especially if you're the spouse or significant other of a writer, be their cheerleader. And if you can't, then say nothing. Don't be an anti-cheerleader. Because as full of doubt and fear as a writer can be, they really don't want to find the exit. What they really want is for you to bar the door that leads out to someplace that's not the dream in their heart.

Melissa Romo writes about her writing journey at She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey with her cheerleader and two cheerleaders-in-training.


  1. Such a sweet post and what an incredible husband you have! Mine doesn't exactly sit me down in front of my laptop, and I'm sure I drive him crazy with my writing more often than not, but if I tell him I'd like to get some writing done, he makes sure I have the time available and takes care the baby. And he encourages me 100% to publish, saying that I'm just as good as the bestsellers, bless him, even though he's read about a chapter of my work. He may not hang onto every one of my words but he encourages me because he knows I love it and that's pretty awesome in my book.

  2. I too am lucky enough to have a husband like yours. And it's good that we recognize it, because not everyone is as fortunate.

    Could it be the difference between success or failure?

  3. I love this post. Such a great topic. At first, I didn't have any cheerleaders in my corner. My husband, though not the biggest supporter, has definitely came around. After months of arguing, he has realized that this is who I am. I'm a writer, that's not going to change.

    It would be nice to have his full support on this, to have him encourage me, to tell me, "don't stop, keep going" because there are days I want to stop. There are days I don't think I can write another sentence.

    I do have writer friends who encourage me to keep writing and to not give up. Having that type of support has kept me "trucking" for the last few months, but it would be nice to have the same encouragement from my husband.

    I think maybe he would be more supportive if he actually read some of my book. How do you convince your other half to do just that?

  4. Thanks for the great reminder of what I'm blessed with. Since I started down the path of writing for a bigger audience than the person who finds my journal after I die, my husband has shown support in ways that surely have kept my dream alive and progressing. He sometimes finds me doing laundry and says "That will wait - go write for a while."

    Writing is such a personal endeavor and the voice of self-doubt is LOUD. When you have a cheerleader that works to remind you that your work is legitimate, it makes all the difference in the world.

  5. I'm not married or tied to anyone, but I have the best critique partner in the world who constantly talks me down off those I'm-wasting-my-time ledges and puts me back on track. When I tell her my dreams she listens and when I say maybe this won't work out she gives me a virtual slap (she lives 6000 miles away) and tells me to get back to work.

    I would not be where I am now (novel in the editing stage and soon to be pitched) without her.

  6. Hi all - thanks for the comments today. I loved hearing your stories of support, they're so heartwarming! Happy writing and keep on trucking!

  7. All hail the supportive spouse! Mine doesn't get into the details, but he's always there to remind me that I'm doing something worthwhile. He also never begrudges me the inevitable cost of website, printing, shipping, conferences, etc! It does add up! Can't stress the importance of THAT piece enough. :)

  8. That's great that you have such a supportive person at home. My husband is great too, but he does complain a bit about the late nights and the messy house. :/

    Way to go on being pitch ready! I will be crossing fingers and shaking pom-poms over here for you!