Writing can be an isolating task.
Writers are typically on our own when we research, write, edit, hate what we’ve written and rewrite it, re-edit, and submit for publication. It gets lonely.
But like any other worthwhile endeavor, writing improves exponentially with a bit of collaboration. Having just finished my first book*, I’m intimately familiar with that isolation, and unapologetically outspoken about the importance of collaboration.
Collaboration improves the product while enhancing the writer’s experience.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that without the love, support, wisdom, and encouragement of a generous group of people in my life, I might never have made it past page one. Depending on the day the person I needed varied, but as I look back, I can isolate five distinct types of support that kept my therapist bills within our monthly budget. These are the five people every writer needs.
This supporter is all about the positivity. She believes in you unconditionally. To him, no problem is insurmountable. No self-doubt is legitimate.
Have writer’s block? He knows it’ll pass. Is your deadline creeping up? She assures you that you’ve got plenty of time. Feeling unsure about what you’ve written or that you’re qualified to speak on a subject? He’ll remind you that you’re incredibly talented and knowledgeable.
It’s best if your cheerleader isn’t a writer. It’s best if he is blissfully ignorant. Being a non-writer helps avoid the possibility of commiserating or confirming how hard writing is some days. The cheerleader keeps you keeping on, and encourages you to think positively.
The Fellow Writer
This supporter is needed for the exact opposite reason. After all, misery loves company, right?
A fellow writer feels your pain. This friend has been there, or is there right now. She understands how horrible it is to feel utterly devoid of creativity. He understands how ridiculous your publisher is being. She will commiserate, reminding you that you aren’t cuckoo for thinking what you’re thinking and feeling what you’re feeling. She will empathize.
Then, if you’re lucky, a fellow writer will share a story that makes your situation seem mild in comparison and convince you that this is nothing to worry about.
Sometimes it just takes a fresh set of eyes.
Does this sound familiar? No matter how many times you tinker, there’s still something out of whack. The big ideas are there, but the language isn’t right. Maybe what you’ve written is forced or awkward or unclear. Having a trusted “someone” on hand to look things over and make adjustments is heavenly.
A true wordsmith will effortlessly elevate what you’ve written. She will mine for the gold hidden inside your work and make it sparkle. These magical beings are few and far between and should be treasured.
The Idea Exploder
Have you ever been guilty of writing small? An idea exploder will call you on that, challenging you to think bigger and do better.
An idea exploder takes your little idea and blows it up into something epic. He forces you to consider taking a scary step in order to make a greater impact. She thrusts you beyond your perceived limits and makes you want to grow because she believes in you. He stretches your boundaries and pushes you to push yourself.
Collaboration with an idea exploder is a little bit scary and massively beneficial.
You can’t edit yourself. I repeat, it is impossible to copy edit your own work effectively. So if you’re writing without a copy editor, you’re doing it wrong.
Every time I have something copy edited I learn something. A nitpicker is a writer’s best friend. He cleans up your mistakes and makes you look smarter than you are. She makes you a better writer. There’s something incredibly freeing about knowing the grammar police are on duty, and on your side.
While a bit of separation and seclusion can be beneficial for writers, too much is poisonous. Avoid writing solo. Find your squad. Keep them close and rely on them to elevate your work and your writing experience.
Do you have other supporters not included here?
Who do you rely on when you’re writing?
My new book, 100 Things to Do in Chicago Before You Die, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2016. Stay updated with the publication process and jump on the bandwagon early by connecting here.
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5 People Every Writer Needs
Thanks for taking time to respond, Suzi! Always love to hear from a fellow Chicagoan. 🙂
I wholeheartedly agree. Without community we’re sunk… and not just when it comes to writing!
Hi Molly, Really clear and positive words here. And from Chicago-I was born in Evanston, so we must be related, right?
To your list I would add, community. Not all the people you list here will be in a writer’s group, and likely, you wouldn’t
want to be in that sort of writing group. But what truly serves my writing, what has educated and expanded my work,
are the writing groups I am in, the conferences I attend every year, and the retreats I take with my wise mentors. These
things are not all costly. For instance, my writing group is 3 other women I met on a retreat, we meet once a month on Zoom and share our latest
pages. I know that today if I don’t submit the piece they made me pledge to do, I will be in hot water on our next call.
Secondly, conferences: I belong to the International Women’s Writing Guild. I attend and/or teach there at least once a
year and it is like being at the best sort of filling station-new inspirations, new learning, new connections. Lastly, retreats:
I have learned that an in-depth dive in to what I am working on, usually with a mentor, scours out the stuck places I keep
resisting and dares me further than I thought I could go.
So, in sum, community. I would add community to your list. It’s not a single person, but it can be the place all the others are found.