Saturday, February 1, 2014

Do You Have a Support Network?

Everyone needs someone to cheer them on. Everyone needs someone to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. Everyone needs someone to be there to help them over the rough spots. Even writers. Especially writers.

Writing is a lonely profession. But even though you have to be alone to write, you don’t have to write in a vacuum.

Nobody really writes alone, without the support of a partner, friend, neighbor, dog, agent, local bookstore. Who is in your support network? Who do you depend on to give you a lift when you’re down? Who do you turn to dump on when you get a raw deal from an editor or publisher?

If you don’t think you have anyone to support you, make a list of the people who can help you make it happen. Let’s start with your family.

If you live alone, are the members of your immediate family on your side. Do they ask you how your writing is going or do they constantly ask when you’re going to get a “real” job? Do they read your published work? Why not give your parents or siblings copies of your books, short stories, or articles. Books, especially, make great gifts.

If you’re married or live with a partner and have children, does that person allow you time to pursue your writing without feeling guilty? Can you and your spouse or partner agree to one kid-free night each? Can you trade or pay for babysitting services in your neighborhood?

Do you have any friends, and if so, are any of them interested in what you do? Do they ask about your latest project? Do you offer information about what you’re writing about when you’re together? Friends can be great sounding boards. They’re great for bouncing off ideas for new writing projects, and they’re great to unload the bad things that happen. Sometimes, a spouse or partner can be your best friend, but often a writer needs to speak with someone with whom they’re not in an intimate relationship.

And even pets can offer good support. You can talk to your dog or cat and pour out your guts, and neither will talk back. They’re always there for you, especially when you’re feeling really down.

If you’ve published books, one of the best forms of support can come from local bookstore owners. These are people who have a direction connection with readers. They hear what readers say about your books and can offer valuable information about how readers feel about your books.

Probably the least supportive are members of local writing groups. Unless a group is led by a writing professional or writing teacher, chances are that any support that comes from such a group won’t be sincere. In many cases, writers who tend to join these groups often are more interested in getting stroked, in hearing positive comments about their work, even f they aren’t true, rather than objective ones. A group led by a professional is more likely to provide more balanced and constructive support.

As well as recruiting your cheerleaders, you should also look at the people who distract or discourage you from your writing dreams or plans. Is there a family member who never takes your work seriously? Is there a writing buddy who spends more time moaning about the publishing industry than actually writing or providing mutual support? There’s a reason why people discourage you from your creative dreams. And the reason is them, not you.

Take time to beef up your support systems, and either reduce your time with the naysayers, or at least change your reactions to them.

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