Regardless if you are writing for yourself, for a small audience, or for the publishing market, you probably appreciate when your writing is supported. When we engage in an activity, it sure feels good to have the people around us offer positive support. Sometimes, that support keeps us going when we feel a little low, but the little things can add up to keep us motivated and creative.
When you spend your time alone, typing away at a keyboard, receiving positive support can be the difference between continuing in the craft or abandoning writing for another hobby. Since no other activity is as fulfilling as writing, few writers leave the craft altogether, though many take short breaks to recharge their batteries when they feel low. Writing can be a lonely hobby, especially when people don’t have the support they need.
If You Want to Have a Friend, Be a Friend
So, how does a writer find support? Drumming up support for one’s hobby can feel like a chore in itself, but the old adage is still true. If you want to have a friend, be a friend. This is certainly true for writers. If you want to be a supported writer, then support writers.
One way to support writers is to spend time with them. I know this might sound a little bit silly, especially considering that writing is a solitary exercise, but finding someone who is willing to listen to story ideas can be a challenge. Be willing to listen to another writer’s ideas about characters, storylines, poems, or research projects. By spending time listening to another writer talk about their ideas, you not only support another writer, but you earn an ear to listen to your story ideas. Many writers process verbally, so being able to talk about your writing can offer a big help in your writing process.
Another way to support writers is to be willing to read their work. The editing and revising steps of writing can be brutal for any writer, and if you have ever taken a story from initial brainstorm to publishable draft, then you know how much work it can be. Unfortunately, most people willing to read a piece of writing come in two types: the “I love everything you write” type and the “Here are the 500 errors I found” type. Neither of these readers is particularly helpful, because they lack the balanced perspective that a competent writer can offer during a revision.
When you read for another writer, start by asking what specifically they want you to look for. Sometimes, I just need to know if my story makes sense, and I really don’t need a reader to tell me if the passive voice is problematic. Needing one piece of advice but getting another can feel defeating for a writer, so offer help where it is needed and in the way that the writer is ready to hear. Some days, we just need to hear that we are doing a good job. Just as being a good listener, when you help another writer read their work, you earn a reader, which is an invaluable resource.
Writers also need help in the market place. If you know a writer who is leading a discussion at the local library, show up. When a local writer has a book signing, buy a book, ask them to sign it, and thank them for their work. Even if the book turns out not to be your favorite piece, you’re supporting your local writing community and in return may earn a fellow writer who will support you.
Leave a Review for Every Book You Read
Find local writers, your writer friends, and members of your writing groups and read their books. After you read their books, ask them where you can leave a review. Amazon, Goodreads, and Kobo all allow readers to leave personalized book reviews. These reviews can make an enormous difference for writers, because the more reviews that writers have, the more likely their books are to be included in the criteria for search engines.
I belong to a writer’s group in my small town. We show up to every author’s event at the library and local bookstore. We have three literary events a month: a critique group, a writer’s workshop, and a public reading night. By doing this, our group has doubled in size and we have created a community of writers who support each other. The effort is worth the pay off.
Finally, if, by chance, you earned a degree in literature or history in college (as I did way back when), you may have an understanding of the classics and may be less aware of contemporary literature. Break out of the canon and spend time reading contemporary writers. Read outside of your comfort zone. Read books by people of color, people from other countries, and people from different socio-economic groups. Read outside of your usual genre. When you read newer writing, you have a better understanding of what is being published now, what is popular, and what topics writers are addressing.
Reading modern literature puts you in touch with contemporary writers. When you find writers you like, reach out to them. Send them letters, write them emails, and follow them on social media. Getting connected to writers can help you build a literary network.
You Get What You Give
Become a supporter of living writers, develop a community of people who support writing, and offer support to other writers. When you do, you create a community of others who will support your writing. Though we write alone, we engage with life to find inspiration to write and we share our writing with others so that our words can comfort, instruct, and entertain. Our strength as writers is in our shared community as lovers of the written word, and it is within that community that we can develop support for our own writing as we support others in their creative pursuits.
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