Writer's Best Friends
No great writer does it alone. No mediocre writer does it alone. No crap writer does it alone. Basically, every creative needs help.
From online lifts to one-on-one sharing -- or big group void screaming -- there are lots of people, pets and particulars that can take your book from Brain to Business. Check out some of my favourite support mechanisms I use when I'm trapped in Doomsville.*
*the horrible place where words aren't working, art isn't selling and soul is sabotaging
We are social creatures. Even the most introverted person craves some kind of human connection. Whenever I'm low or lonely -- or need inspiration -- human interaction can be a blissful artistic balm.
People who have done it, over and over and over, often know the practical ins and outs of art.
they wrote a book
they published a book
they profited from their book sales
they've won awards
they are a bestselling author
they are Stephen King
Academics have taught creation methodologies for years -- on repeat. They've seen everything. Plus, many educators work hard to stay relevant to best support their students, so they should be up-to-date on helpful technology and historically successful practices.
they teach creative writing
they edit, mark and grade stories
they have a broad pool of comparable talent to draw from when giving advice
they're highly critical, but oddly kind
they have connections with agents, editors, publishers, and other artists -- because they used to be their teacher
Find a few you trust, aren't too nice and are willing to give objective and emotional feedback about your stories. My Beta combo includes Reader #1 (who also does my editing), Reader #2 (who has no filter and says the horrible things people think but never tell you in person), Reader #3 (who reads like every book is banned and knows more about genre quirks than most acclaimed authors), and Reader #4 -- who never reads and, therefore, is an exceptional 'blind' tester (he sees things professionals, Career Creatives and the overly-critical miss).
I'm going to do a whole blog on Beta Readers later -- I love Beta Readers
Pros? The Nice Ones love you so much they'll only say beautiful things about your work, which can boost your confidence if you're a self-flagellating artist. The Mean Ones will tell you hard truths you may need to hear, really badly. Cons? The Nice Ones might tell you what they think you want to hear because they don't want you to dislike them, or they're uncomfortable saying they don't enjoy your story because they don't want to hurt your feelings. The Mean Ones might be wrong. They might state their preferences as realities, or attack aspects of your piece because of personal triggers that don't affect your target audience (or the majority of your readers). Tread carefully.
you know who's in a family, I don't need to keep listing
Your chosen family can be wonderfully encouraging. However, if your friends are fellow artists they might prioritize their feelings over yours (it sucks to be a struggling star while your bestie's signing book deals). So, if you're looking for help or support, take everything your writer buddies say with a grain of salt, unless you know they can separate work from relationships. Or -- OR! -- chat with your pals who aren't in the artistic community. I love when my non-writer friends are impressed I can pick up a pencil.
Uhhhhhh, anyone else love when sharing a success or failure causes dozens of humans to cheer you on or lift you up -- or provide improvement tips? I DO! Building give-and-take relationships in communities is a great way to define and refine your craft.
social (in person or online)
art related (book clubs, writing groups)
spiritual (church or connection-based)
outsider (sports, work, gaming)
Caution: finding people who support your work is smart, but remember that good intentions may not yield helpful results. Your friends might want you to succeed but that doesn't mean they know shit about the craft, or the writing world, or what you'd like your career to look like. When asking for help, I recommend you prepare specific questions before reaching out -- or be willing to do a lot of gentle corrections; "No thanks, Mom, creating a 'music video' where I dress like my protagonist and dance around 'sexy-style' is not how I want to represent my brand, but maybe next time?"
Unconditional love. A hug buddy who doesn't judge. A creature to care for that puts your piddly-ass problems into perspective (nothing like sitting with your sick cat in the vet's office all day to remind you that art is fun and being alive is important).
*will eat you if you forget to lock their cage
breed like sons-of-bitches
*super stinky and might become snake food if you forget to lock their cage
basically ignore you so you can write for hours at a time
earning their love feels better than winning a Nobel Prize
*there's a significant body of proof that states cats are aliens waiting until the time is right to take over the planet -- so be nice to them
force you to get out of your house
you are the hero of their dreams, especially if you carry cut up hotdogs in your pocket
*a lot of work, very expensive, you need to invest in pet insurance
*the frequent burials can be a burden
I know they don't have blood or brains, but they eat, grow and give us oxygen, so care for your plants as though they were pets
water is cheap
*if you hug the prickly ones you might develop a rash or skin infection
Caution: only hang with animals IF YOU CAN MANAGE THEIR NEEDS AND YOUR WORK. Too many artists get caught up in their writing and forget to walk Fido, or feed Jezebel, or clean Hammy's cage. If you want to reap the rewards of animal affection, you have to nurture it.
Are you uncomfortable interacting with people? Don't have the time, money or energy for dependants? Prefer to skulk in your creative-cave like a friendly, non-lethal unabomber? I gotchu -- check out these non-living resources that give step-by-step directions for building your artistry.
non-fiction or 'How To's
fiction -- find your comps, learn what style of writing you like, get immersed in genre "greats"
helpful tools and tricks
personal experiential sharing so you can learn from other's artistic practice
concentrated instructional platforms (ie. How To Get An Agent)
direct-connect with Authors, Publishers, Editors, Agents, Books, Libraries, Reader Worlds
They're expensive, but if you're very, verrrrrrry new to the industry these expert-hosted sessions can be lovely.
often led by truly exceptional writers
their real-life stories are amazing
I'm going to say that again -- REPUTABLE influencers. Check their background. Check their history. DON'T BUY OR TRY THEIR CONTENT UP FRONT. Popularity is not an indication of expertise. Beauty is not an indication of knowledge. Hilarity is not an indication of intelligence. Follow them for a bit, try some of their free stuff (or test their smaller products and/or advice) and ask around. Also, reviews mean less than we want them to. Reviews can be bought, or fabricated, or a lie. Or a mistake! Take your time, trust your gut and don't fall in love on day one.
I'm going to say that again -- DON'T FALL IN LOVE ON DAY ONE.
easy, simple, quick way of getting focused, intentional information
influencers are often engaging humans or brands who know how to share solid advice efficiently
Giving back feels so good -- and you learn a lot about humanity in the process.
builds your soul's cred
they can connect you with communities who might need your stories the most -- learn from Charities (and donate time, product and/or money), so your books can support positive change and growth
Caution: You need to KNOW YOUR SHIT or KNOW YOURSELF to adequately pick and choose the strategies that work. Going through articles, videos and tech can be time consuming and may not yield you-specific results. Talking to people and being clear about your needs can be much faster -- and more effective -- in shaping the stories and career you want.
Hope you found this helpful! I didn't include links this week, but if you Search any of these topics a ton of info can be found very easily. Plus, as always, if I've missed anything please share your stories in the comments. I love collective learning.
Have a great week!