Writing isn’t a social activity. In fact, many of us become writers because we enjoy solitude. But even the loners among us have to come out of our writer caves sometimes, and when we do, we long for connection with people who can relate to the ups and downs of the writing life.
Sometimes our families mean well, but they just don’t understand. A writer told me her spouse kept wondering out loud why she didn’t have a book out after spending so much time writing. She suggested that if she played tennis, he wouldn’t be asking her when she was going to play at Wimbledon. Her husband didn’t understand how hard it is to write well or anything about the challenges inherent in the publishing industry—or more to the point—the pure joy she felt in the act of writing, a worthwhile achievement in itself. He just didn’t get it.
But why should he?
Other writers get it though.
So we join writers groups, but sometimes we do it not because we need people to read and comment on our work, but because we want to be around other people like us. How about exploring some of the other options for mutually beneficial support?
Another writer and I used to meet every Sunday morning at a predetermined place. After greeting each other, we opened our laptops and wrote separately for a couple of hours without talking. When we finished writing, we closed our laptops and had a chat. We rarely talked about what we were working on or the details of our lives; our relationship was more about friendly encouragement. I might break an appointment with myself to write, but it was much less likely I would break my appointment with her. By holding this time to write every week, we affirmed for ourselves and each other the importance of writing in our lives.
- Some writers share word counts for their works in progress with each other on a scheduled basis to spur each other on.
- And I know of writers who gather for submission parties where they trade information about publishing and contest opportunities and crank out the entry forms together.
- There are read-like-a-writer groups where members evaluate an assigned book in terms of craft issues.
- Some groups attend annual retreats, giving themselves and each other the gift of time to write and enjoy the companionship of kindred spirits in a beautiful place.
Pairs or groups can meet on a more ad hoc basis over a meal or coffee to chat about writing and the writing life. Or maybe they see a play or movie, go on a gallery walk, or do some other arts-related activity together to feed their creative spirits. Recently two poet friends and I took a photography field trip to a wetlands. There was something about spending hours together in nature, sharing photography techniques, and framing shots that filled my creative well and sent me home to write.i
When the self-doubt creeps in, when you want to celebrate achievements large and small, when you’re not sure what to do next, it can help to be among writer-friends who understand what you’re going through. Seek mutually beneficial relationships with writers and other creative people. And don’t hold back waiting for someone to reach out to you. Be the person who reaches out to make something happen. The best way to make friends is to be one.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Florida Writer, the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association.