The not-so solitary writer

Dear reader,

Yesterday NaNoWriMo published a wee blog post I’d written for them. The only thing they chose to edit out was my mention of ScriptFrenzy, an old event that asked people to write a 50 page script in the month of March. I’d like to think they are just still too heartbroken to even think about it. Anyway, since that post was in the form of a postcard, and this one refers back to it, I thought it fitting to have this one addressing you directly as well. Hope you don’t mind.

I’ve been thinking about some of the comments the post has received on Facebook, especially in relation to my previous post about critique groups, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the myth about writers being solitary creatures is not only wrong, but also potentially quite harmful. (Most) writers, in fact, need lots of different groups of people around them.

As discussed previously, it is good for a writer to have critique partners, who read through your work and tell you honestly and helpfully what they would like to see improved, or what just doesn’t work for them. It is the best way you can improve your writing enough to get it published. But this is only one kind of support group. There needs to be at least one other group in a writer’s life: the cheerleaders.

The ultimate solitary writer, with the worst kind of cheerleader

If you are lucky, maybe you have uber-supportive parents or a great partner, and that is all the support you need to reach your goals. If you don’t have this built-in support system, a writers group can make all the difference. This would not be a group that reads what you write and criticises it (although members of the group might do), this is a group where you go to and say, “I will write 500 words a day”, and then the next time they see you they will ask, “Did you?” and either you say “No” and they will commiserate, or you will say “Yes” and they will celebrate. No judgement, only support.

I realise that everyone is different. Some people don’t need an extensive support system, some people work better with being punished, some people work best by rewarding themselves with chocolate. Looking at the writers I follow on twitter however, I don’t know a single professional who can actually stand to be alone all of the time, to do nothing but write all day. Because in your room, sitting behind a computer, that’s not where stories happen. You need to go outside, to be inspired, to give your creativity fuel to keep itself going. And you need other people to talk to in order not to go insane, in order to get some encouragement or commiserate with each other.

So, dear reader, and probably aspiring writer, I tell you this. Get yourself a group of writers willing to look at your story and critique it, but more importantly, find yourself a group of writers who are willing to support you and talk booky with you, and in turn support them. This can be in the city you live, online, or any combination thereof. You may come across groups that enjoy being negative about each other’s efforts, and feel that that somehow pushes people to do better (mostly it just helps protect their own feelings I assume). Avoid these groups if possible, try to transform them into a positive support network if necessary.

Whatever you do, don’t believe the stupid myth that you have to cut off all communication with the outside world in order to be able to write a novel. Writing and trying to get published is not something you do in a week, or a year, or maybe even a decade. It takes a long time, which is why the people that surround you and are going through the same journey with you can make a huge difference. Everyone wants to quit sometimes. Having a community of understanding friends around you makes it so much harder to give up, and so much easier to get to the next step on the writing/publishing ladder.

As with all things in life, there has to be a balance between bleeding your heart out on the paper/screen, and recharging your creativity/enthusiasm/imagination with others. What do you think?

Hope your writing is well,

L.B.

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