- Writer: Someone who writes.
- Author: Someone who shares the writing with others.
- Published Author: Someone who shares the writing with people they don’t know.
These are important distinctions for me and how I see my evolution in this adventure. Non-writers easily forget how much a writer exposes themselves in what they write. Sharing your book with friends and family begins the process of opening up your brain and allowing people to see what’s inside. Many writers and authors fall apart when the start sharing with their friends and family. Others skip these people, more comfortable with letting strangers get to know this version of them. The risk that your friends and family will tell you that they dislike your writing or not say anything at all.
I wrote my first novel in 2004. I had wanted to do NaNoWriMo since its second year but didn’t feel I could manage graduate school AND writing a novel in November. I needed to write my papers and read other people’s writing. That first year after I graduated, I had nothing – no friends, no money, and no other hobbies. Writing a novel was a great idea. It would take ten years for me to become an author – to let others read what I’d been writing. Ever since I’ve had the luck to feel supported as a writer by both friends and family.
Why? There are a few reasons. First, I’ve been privileged to have always been supported by friends and family. I tend to cultivate relationships with people who are readers that like to discuss what they’ve read. I put a lot of that credit on growing up Jewish, a religion and community that values these things. Second, I cultivated friendships with my fellow writers. My first friends after graduate school, in a town where I knew nobody, were writers and knitters. I surrounded myself with creative people who supported expressions of creativity. The more time I spent with writers, the more writers came into my life. The vast majority of my friends are people I’ve met because I write.
I’m a member of a number of Facebook groups that focus on the writing/publishing process. There are amazing ones like 20Booksto50K which is a massive, no-nonsense group of people primarily focused on indie and self-publishing AND the Writing Gals, a group led by four, primarily romance, authors who are a little more flexible. I see people posting about their negative friends and family. One of my real-life author friends has shared her stories of friends who offer to help, only to just insult her. It pains me that other writers have negative energy around their writing.
I thought a lot about how writers can cultivate more supportive relationships around them and their writing. Here are my top five:
- Don’t give up those people who don’t support your writing, just don’t ask them to help or expect their support. Don’t give them the opportunity to hurt you with their critique of your work. If they seek out your writing on their own and provide negativity, thank them and remember their negativity is generally about them, not your writing.
- Don’t ask for feedback when you’re only fishing for compliments. Even the most supportive people can push back with something you weren’t expecting.
- Tell people what kind of feedback you want. Are you writing about a culture you don’t understand? Do you have a friend who can help you make that voice authentic? Tell them that’s what you need them to help with.
- Don’t try to force your friends and family into a role they don’t want. Some people aren’t readers, some aren’t critical readers, not everyone likes reading your genre, and some aren’t fast readers.
- Seek out local writers for emotional support. Nobody understands the struggles of a writer like another writer, especially those who are transitioning to published authors. They know how you feel and the support you might need. Not all groups will be right for you and you can start your own if you struggle to find it in others.
What’s your support system like? Do you have one? Do you have more tips? Share them in the comments!
Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books but sometimes takes on horror. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books. You can learn more about her and her books on her webpage.