Don’t Go It Alone

Writing, for the most part, is a solitary process. We sit at desks or in comfy chairs typing or scrawling words that no one but us will see for days, weeks, months… or ever. Once we’ve revised and polished, our words go out into the world to await editorial judgement, and then they come back to us and we send them out again until one day, hopefully, somebody buys them. It can all be very insular and isolating.

Most of us have supportive loved ones, but unless they’re writers too, even the most encouraging spouse or friend is an outsider to the process. They cheer us on, but with little understanding of the immense effort we’ve put into our work, or the true rollercoaster of the submissions process. There’s no reason for a non-writer to understand the ins and outs of various markets. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be constructive critics. Even when we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by people who believe in us, we can still be alone in our understanding of what it’s really like to be an emerging writer.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. One thing writing has taught me above all else is that as writers, we’re all in the same boat. Connecting with other writers, who do know how hard it is to nail a character transformation, or refine complex worldbuilding, or lay on that perfect ending, is invaluable. It’s invaluable in ways I never would have imagined before I made those connections and found writers I could gel with and exchange critiques with and celebrate/commiserate with. Nobody understands the sting of a close-but-no-cigar rejection better than another writer. Nobody understands the high of finally cracking a tough market as well as another writer. Nobody understands the incomparable satisfaction of finding your story’s arc and soaring with it the way another writer does. And being able to share those things makes the journey so much easier.

That’s not to mention the immense benefit of having a trusted critique partner (or three) who not only knows your style, but can immediately see the strengths and weaknesses you can’t see for yourself. Invaluable doesn’t even begin to convey the benefit of that. Nothing has improved my writing and my stories better than giving and receiving critiques.

So I’m here to say that if you don’t have another writer to lean on and offer support to in return, find one. Find a few. Seek a local or online writers’ workshop. Join writing forums. Reach out… make some friends. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the writer I am now, with the successes I’ve had to date, without my trusted writing buddies. And watching them flourish and find their own success is truly wonderful. The rewards flow in all directions. When you know how much your successes mean to you, you know how much they mean to others in the same boat. It’s like a triple bonus when three of you have great news at once. And when you don’t… when rejections are weighing heavily and stories aren’t cooperating and you’re in the inevitable dip of the rollercoaster, there is no better sympathiser than someone who’s been there themselves, and no better rallying cry than the cheerleading of writer pals who’ve got your back.

You’re the only person who can tell your stories, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.