Let’s face it: writing can be a solitary and lonely activity. It’s easy to let yourself get sucked into your world and forget about what exists around you or to become so involved in the process of writing and publishing that you forget about people who can help you. And it can be incredibly discouraging and disheartening; our lives are filled with rejections.
My friends, it doesn’t have to be this way, and, quite honestly, it’s better if it isn’t. For your health and your stories.
Writers need other people. Why? Here are a few of the biggest reasons.
1. Writers need teachers. Even the ones we consider masters of writing, like Stephen King or Anne Lamott, will tell you this. We all need teachers. We instruct and inform each other, we can make each other better writers. We can learn so much about our storytelling, our writing flaws, and our writing strengths if we just take the time to ask other writers.
2. Writers get stuck in their heads. If you made it into the querying minefield already, you might be more familiar with this feeling than most. We’re constantly surrounded by comparison: what books you compare your manuscript to, what authors you know have gotten offers, how well your story is told compared to similar ones, how many offers or requests you receive compared to your friends or the average… it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
3. Writers need encouragement. Because of reason number two, we might need a bit more encouragement than the average person. This is often because of our creative natures: we strive for perfection and beat ourselves up when we can’t reach it. And, like I mentioned above, our professional lives are filled with rejection.
So now that we know why we need a support system, what exactly is it?
A support system is a network of friends, family, and professionals tailored to meet specific needs. In our case, it should be our professional network of agents, publishers, and authors we have met and corresponded with, our family (but not always), and both writer and non-writer friends. Let’s break down the roles of each of these spokes on the wheel.
Professional networks. Now, these people aren’t directly your support system, but they can certainly provide you with industry relevant advice. When it’s appropriate to do so, you can seek out answers to questions or knowledge they might be able to share with you. You can even simply follow these professionals on your social media outlet of choice; their feeds tend to be full of gems of wisdom for your professional development.
Family. This one can be tricky and really varies from person to person. Family, theoretically, should be the people who support and encourage you and your dreams no matter what they are or how difficult they are to achieve. Realistically, this doesn’t always happen. It can be hard for them to understand, especially if you plan on making writing your career. And family doesn’t always act like family. But if it is possible, and if they at least understand enough to do this, lean on them for emotional support when the writing gets tough. And if you can’t do that, lean on your friends.
Non-writer friends. This is very similar to family. Just like family, they might not be the most supportive, even to the extent of thinking you’re wasting time. But on the other hand, some of these friends will be your biggest cheerleaders, and these are important people to have behind you. If you’re struggling with an idea or comparing yourself or your work to something else, talk to them and allow them to build you up again.
Here’s a couple examples for you: when I was writing my first novel, the one currently being posted at Wattpad, I hit so many blocks of where I was going. One of my closest friends, a non-writer, had so much enthusiasm for my project! We talked about it so much, and ultimately, she was one of the key people who helped me finish it. Talking to her really helped me regain joy in my project and work through difficult scenes.
Writer friends. These are the people who really understand, the ones who know the process and understand the intense emotional swings that go along with it. They get it when you have writer’s block, when you think your story isn’t good enough, when you are ready to throw in the towel and quit writing forever (but let’s be honest, we’d never actually be able to do that). They are the ones who can realistically, with understanding and a no-guff attitude, push you toward your dreams.
So just how important is the support system of a writer? Here’s an example: last night, I found myself nearly three days behind in NaNoWriMo. That’s 1667 words per day that I didn’t write. It felt like too much. It was overwhelming, and I was about to give up. Then my fiance, another non-writer but active advocate for this story in particular, pushed me to sit down and pound out the words. He knew how much writing meant to me and how much I wanted to finally be able to complete NaNo. Because of him, I got over 3000 words down within two hours. Without him, I would have quit. I feel like I have a good person on my side to get me to the end of NaNo with enough words.
So I implore you, fellow writers. Find your support systems, and hold onto them for all they’re worth. If your current support system drags you down or discourages you, find new people to inject life and excitement to your writing life. Don’t discuss your writing life with negative people. We have enough negativity for our own work; we don’t need to hear it from someone who’s supposed to be on our side.
So how about you? Tell me about your support system and your greatest writing advocates!