Monday, May 16, 2005

Writing Tip: Finding Your Support Network

Now it’s true, in most cases, that writing is a completely solitary activity. It’s pretty hard to share a keyboard or pencil with another person and write simultaneously though I suppose it could be done - but I’m sure the results would be less than stellar. But this is not the point of this post. Creating, finding and belonging to some sort of support network for writers is.

As with bridges, airplanes and souffles, most things need some form of support to stay up. As well, the writer’s spirit and will to continue creating fiction also need support or they will collapse under their own oppressive weight after a time. The way I see it, there are two kinds of support. Good and Bad. . . . Well there is Ugly too, but that’s more an impression than a support so I’ll skip it.

Bad Support - May as well get this one over with as quickly an painlessly as possible. Support people to exclude from your network are - mothers (yes real mothers, not the slang), fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses (especially spouses - I repeat - especially spouses) and your best friend in the whole world too. Do not use them for your writing support - ever! These people, though dear to you, (okay maybe you can’t stand them so you wouldn’t have them as support people anyhow - right?) are terrible choices when it comes to your writing craft.

But Why? Well, unless they are professional copy editors and one hundred percent objective (like that’s possible) they will have very little in the way of useful constructive criticism and will more often than not just grin inanely and say things like, "that was great", "oh, I liked it", "you are so good", "another piece of pie, dear?" and so on. Utter useless gibberish and not what the budding young (or old, okay even ancient if you are starting late in the game - and it’s never too late but this is another post) writer really needs to know. It was good material when you brought home those kindergarten finger paintings, but now, with your writing career starting up, those types of comments are crap - plain and simple

And it’s no real fault of those loving relatives (again, unless they are professional copy editors) because they have no real idea about the craft of writing. They offer you only their biased impressions and those will not make you a better writer. Their loving comments, though supportive, will eventually fall flat and sound like a recording. So what to do then? Am I suggesting strangers, you ask? But mother told me never to talk to strangers. Get over it! Get off the chair and locate people you don’t know who share the same pain and hook up with them. It works for Alcoholic’s Anonymous - it will work for your writing addiction too.

Good Support - Now we come to what can be useful to the budding writer. If you check, I’ll bet that right there in your community, or close by, is a local writer’s group. These groups likely meet once per month or even more and are made up of writers just like you. Some will be published, some will be starting out and others will be somewhere in-between. Join one. Go to the meetings and read your stuff out loud. Listen to their advice. Give your advice to others about their work. A writer may write alone, but the collected knowledge of a group of writers all helping each other can be, well, supportive and constructive and fill you with enthusiasm for your craft.

One more thing. If you can hook up with another human being (exclude the Bad Support list of people) to meet with, even if over the phone, once a week to discuss progress on your writing - that is a great help. It keeps you talking about what you’ve accomplished, or maybe didn’t accomplish, with somebody else on a regular basis. It gives you a deadline and provides you with a task master to report to. Oh, and this person doesn’t need to know anything about writing at all.

And for some writers who just read this post - they are thinking. He is full of crap. Well, if you have tried what I suggested and it didn’t work out for you - that’s okay too. There are usually exceptions to most things - this I can’t deny. But if you can get set up as I mentioned above - great. I think it really helps. I know it helps me a good deal.

Nobody wants that bridge to fall down, especially when one is driving over it.

Keep writing - with a little help from strangers.

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