While most writers have figured out that writing isn’t quite the solitary process our cultural myths would have us believe, it can still be a lonely endeavor. I’ve struggled lately with finding my voice and with writerly doubt, and I’ve been thinking about how much I rely on my network of writer friends.
I have to credit my work as a writing center consultant for the most meaningful early lesson on this. Working with writers there showed me how beneficial it is to have another human there to help us ensure we’re making sense, that our point is clear, and to help us locate the words that are often hidden somewhere within us. I learned quickly that it’s best to sit down with someone early in the drafting process to get feedback – or even just to complain about the hard work of writing. I’m very fortunate to have this background – without it, I don’t know that I would be as connected to other writers as I am now.
I’ve formed alliances over the past few years – writing groups, writer friends and colleagues – and I’ve come to understand that having a support system of writers and artists is crucial.
Our earliest encounters with other writers comes, of course, from reading. We fall in love with books and authors, and somewhere in the midst of that love fest we decide we, too, want to write.
What I’ve found is that there is an incredible potential for love, respect, and admiration when you work closely with other writers during the writing process. I think this is why writers in workshops (when they go well) and writing groups become so tight-knit and invested in one another. I’ve fallen in love with so many works-in-progress and found overwhelming emotion in the writers I’ve worked with.
You have to be vulnerable to share your work with others, and you have to recognize other writers’ vulnerabilities, too. It’s an emotional experience to write, to share, and to talk about the words so painstakingly arranged on the page. And the experience makes you a better writer.
It’s so helpful to get good, honest feedback from readers when you’re drafting. But it’s equally valuable to be the reader and provide feedback. Reading critically and carefully gives you the opportunity to really internalize style and language, and it allows you to see new possibilities in your own writing.
For me, there’s just something about reading the raw, early drafts of wonderful pieces that I find incredibly inspirational. Seeing the potential, feeling the emotions of the writer still so close to the surface, and helping the writer flesh out the story – this makes me want to write.
I think you have to be invested for this to work, though. If you are too worried about when you can talk about your own writing, or if you don’t have the language or the desire to give feedback, working with other writers won’t be the transformative experience it has the potential to be.
Reciprocity & Motivation
Probably the best thing about knowing other writers is that they understand the struggle. They, too, experience doubt and writer’s block and guilt. You can talk to any good listener about how hard it is to write and to be a writer, and they might be sympathetic and offer great hugs, but unless they are also a writer, they simply can’t feel the feels along with you.
But beyond the deep understanding of those writerly emotions, other writers can be great sources of motivation. For example, recently my (fabulous) writing group helped each other set goals. They’ll also be there to check in and hold everyone accountable for those goals. I also meet with a fellow writer each week and we take turns sharing our work. Knowing I have to have something to send her every other Tuesday is a great motivator.
With a network of writers, you’ll almost always have someone who is willing to swap drafts with you. You get the benefit of having a conversation about your writing, and that extra dose of inspiration.