What a strange world writers inhabit.
We can live in a different country to someone who means so much to our work – an editor, an agent, a reader – have so much communication, even enter a contract with them, yet never actually meet them. It can all be rather, well…
But then writing is an especially odd profession. It’s solitary in a way that many jobs could never be. In between the parts that actually involve getting together with other people, there are hours / days / weeks / months / years - of typing away by yourself.
So the trick is not to go mad. Well not to go madder still, anyway.
This means community is important. Not just as a lifeline to the normal world of friends, family, mortgages, bills, grocery shopping, etc. I mean the community of other writers, too. The people who share similar struggles, understand your problems and have links, tips and other friends they can send your way.
This is where our modern lives really come into their own. With the Internet and entire digital worlds available to us all, I can't encourage you enough to make sure you're plugged in.
Twitter, Facebook, Query Tracker, Absolute Write, SCBWI, this very blog ... these are just some of the ways I keep in touch with writers, editors, agents, etc, and then meet new writers, new editors, new colleagues. There are writing competitions (Writers & Artists run them, and Writer's Digest have small ones every two months), writer retreats, conferences, online 'webinars' (I don’t like this word…), and every other combination imaginable, and all out there to make sure of one thing:
You don't go it alone.
Don't go mad. Don't get lonely. And most importantly, don't ignore the support, inspiration, encouragement and love of people who will care about you and your writing. Some of them you may never meet, but they’ll share your successes and read every word, either because they’re writers or they just love your writing.
And you should care about their careers, too. To isolate one’s self from all the shared wisdom and experience of the many, many writers out there would – to put it simply – be dumb. Beyond just disadvantaging yourself by being outside the loop, you’re also missing chances to improve the quality of your work.
When interacting with other writers, you should remember most are doing it for the love, not the money. So they understand. When you’re getting a bit too much into the worlds you create, who's going to understand that? Other writers, that’s who. And those people who love to read. Community is the life support you need to make it in the tough world of books.
Local libraries and bookshops are good places to poke around for writing groups in the real world. And online – well, if you’re reading this, you’re already plugged in, aren't you?
If you’re on Twitter, check out the hashtags #PubTip and #AskAgent. These ongoing conversations house a lot of expert advice – the first from professionals in the publishing industry (often to do with submissions and writers’ attitudes) and the second from literary agents, who will answer questions submitted by anyone, often at pre-appointed times using the tag. They’re some of the best solid examples I know of the writing / publishing community and how it can help individual writers.
I hope this all encourages you to open up to others about your goals and your work. One of the very first posts I wrote over on my own blog was about ‘The Shame of Writing,’ and trying to encourage myself to be braver and more open, and to get active in writing circles. I’m so glad I did – so much has come from it. You might as well try.
Simon P. Clark
Simon grew up in the UK before moving to rural Japan to teach English for three years after graduating. From there he moved to New Jersey, USA, where he works as a writer. His first children's book, EREN, is represented by Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency.
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