To all my beautiful people,
I hear so many people make flippant comments about writers. For example, one person told me “oh, you’re a writer, that’s why you spend so much time alone.” Unfortunately, no. I spend a lot of time alone because I just don’t care for a lot of noise and people easily annoy me. The struggles of living life as an INTJ.
That said, I wanted to stop and attack this idea. So many people think of writing as a solitary activity. There are so many reasons and examples of why that isn’t true, that I almost don’t know where to begin. However, begin I must.
Many things brought this post about, including the above dialogue. However, what prompted me to actually begin writing it was a conversation after editing a piece of writing by a lovely young friend, Rachel Creech. She’s a budding writing hoping to publish in the near future, and needed some help with a piece of writing that wasn’t quite where she wanted it to be.
That said, the editing of this piece sparked a conversation that ended up being this post.
Why do people think of writing as a solitary act?
Part of the reason people think of writing as a solitary act is that because that is how it was presented to us through literature. In books, we see writers as people with glasses who sit in the corner staring and scrawling. In books, we see writers as those who sequester themselves away or go traveling somewhere for the summer to be alone with their papers.
Part of the reason people think of writing as a solitary act is because writers insist that it is. Writers give interviews all the time about how they have special writing places. Writers share with us how many pages they write and edit a day, how you need to get alone and preserve that alone time in order to write.
Part of the reason people think of writing is a solitary act is because we feel alone. That’s just the way of it sometimes. Sometimes as a writer, it’s you and your story trying to kill each other. It’s your characters giving the appropriate finger to you; it’s you ripping your hair out over the prose that seemed so perfect last night but now seems awful.
Part of the reason people think writing is a solitary act is because we force ourselves to make it one.
If Writing is Not a Solitary Act, What is It?
I think it’s vitally important that writers, particularly young writers, understand that writing is far from a solitary act.
We involve people, knowingly or unknowingly, in every aspect of our writing. For example, when we’re inspired by something. Is it by people watching? Is it by something someone else wrote or created? A question someone else has prompted us to ask?
Or when we’re writing and we can’t focus, can’t keep going. Who asks us about our stories? Who keeps us on track? Who do we rant to or grumble at when we should be writing?
When we’re coming to the revision phase and can’t fix a piece on our own anymore, who reads it? Who edits it? Who makes cover art? Who praises your characters and demolishes your plot?
When you’re in the marketing phase, who helps you come up with a plan? Who suggests different contests or promotional activities?
Why do we have writers’ groups, online communities? Why do we have readers at all?
Because people are involved in every aspect of writing, from the inception of an idea to the finished product. In each step, at least one person is involved. There’s never just one mind or hand behind a story. Writing is an intensely communal art form.
How Should I be Involving Other People in my Writing?
There are many ways to involve others in your writing. Sometimes younger writers join a mentorship program. Sometimes writers join a critique group. Other times, people merely involve their friends and family. And other people choose only to involve professionals after years and years of hard work.
It’s my personal belief that every writer needs a hand-picked writing group–be it in person or online. You may have different people within that group that you approach for help with different things, but each person needs to be someone who can help you or motivate you in some way. The relationship should add to you both personally and professionally.
That group may change over time. People may stop writing. People may become too busy. Or you may “fall out” with people. That’s how life works. But you should always have a group bigger than merely you.
For example, when I was young, I started out sharing my writing with only my grandmother, who was a professional writer as well. Then, as I got to know other writers, I had a group of 3-4 girls that I regularly shared with and collaborated with on writing projects. Over the years, I lost contact with all of them.
As I went to college, I found new writing friends. I began critiquing and collaborating with a friend, Andy Michell, and another friend, Bailey Sims. Both of them helped critique and revise multiple pieces of my writing. Our group carried each other through college years and even beyond that.
After college, and somewhat through this blog, I found my way to an online group where I met several other young ladies. And now I have a group of about five trusted readers who poke at me to do better in my writing. And without them, my writing would hardly be worth reading.
What if I’m too Self-Conscious to Show my Work to Others?
Then you’ll never be published. Point blank. If you can’t get to the place where you’re willing to share your work with someone to be critiqued or edited or beta read, then you aren’t ready to publish your writing.
Fear is certainly one of the biggest problems that we face as writers. The fear of others’ opinions being high up on that list.
But honestly, if you are unable to build a group of fellow writers who are able to help read and develop your story to make it the best that it can be…you will never make it very far with your writing.
Because if you can’t trust a few fellow writers, who SHOULD be the most accepting audience that you will face and who exist in your world to help you strengthen your work, then you’ll never feel able to entrust that piece to professionals and to strangers.
How Can I get Over my Fear?
Just do it.
Yes, I know. Bland Nike phrase. But it’s true. Sometimes we have to make ourselves just do things. We have to say: “I am going to finish this. And even though it sucks and I’m not happy with it, I will keep working. I will send it to this person, and I will involve these people in my writing because they want to be involved.”
Honestly, other budding writers like yourselves will be the best initial audiences that you can possibly reach out to. They will notice holes in your writing, and they may pick it apart entirely. But when it comes down to it, all they want is to help you make your writing better.
How Can I Help Others in Their Writing?
Honestly, I think this is the biggest thing to ask ourselves. Often, we make writing all about ourselves. How can I get help? How can this person help me? Where will this take my career?
But I always tell people that even though you need the help, there are others who will come after you that need to learn what you’re learning now. And the best way to grow as a writer is to be able to teach and grow alongside others.
I encourage you to get involved with a critique group or a writing forum. I did back in 2014-2015. A friend came to me and requested that I help her start a writing community for people who wanted to push themselves to be serious writers, and so we did. Almost four years later now, I have fallen in love with that community and how it has grown and shaped. I have been able to critique brilliant pieces of work. I have seen young people whose stories I have helped edit choose to go to school or begin careers in creative or professional writing. I have seen “my children” publish books and win contests.
And honestly sometimes being involved with this community causes me to neglect my own writing. But at some point, I’ve decided that I don’t mind because being involved in the careers of others–pushing and promoting them–is worth it.
Want to Come Join my Writing Community?
For those of you who would be interested in joining a quiet, supporting community where you can be involved with other writers, form your own writing group, and exchange work with others, come check out Neverland and tell them that I sent you. I would really encourage you to do so. It’s a supportive, vibrant, and encouraging community.
Well, children, I think I’ve rambled enough. Look forward in the next few days, I’m going to have an interview with two of my lovely ladies, Rebekah DeVall and Annie Louise Twitchell. These lovely ladies are a part of the Neverland community, as well as their own writing group, and they’ll be talking to us more on the collaborative nature of writing–as well as promoting they’re new book release! (See graphic below.)
Your unaffectionate supernova,