Knowing Your Process: Who
A few weeks ago I posted up a list of 21 tips for writers of all ilks. One of them was to know your process. Over the next five weeks I explore getting to know your process, looking at the very simple framework of who, what, where, when and how.
Today, in part one I look at “who”.
Who you surround yourself is part of your process, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. A tip – best to acknowledge and work with it sooner rather than later!
If you surround yourself with unsupportive people, you are likely to spend less time writing, than when you mix with others who are supportive. Friends and family for all they proclaim to be supportive will never truly “get it” unless they too are writers, or creatives of other art forms.
Over time I’ve jettisoned friends who have made me feel bad or inadequate in my craft – who were overly critical or outright saboteurs. Life is too short to hang out with people who don’t want to inspire and encourage you.
Make Friends with Writers
It was through a casual acquaintance on an astrology blog that I was referred here and started writing [Fiction] Friday. Through the course of writing and posting here I met lots of wonderful writers who were also starting out. For the first time I wasn’t alone.
Your group of writer friends are the one who will encourage and commiserate with you. They are the ones who will stop in and read your stories, and comment each week. They are the ones who will post your links to Facebook and twitter. They are the ones you will be able to turn to for beta reading and editing support. They will be the ones who tell you about a new competition or journal.
They are the ones who will tell you Inner Critic/Editor/Censor to “shut the %&!* up” and point out all the great things you write when you’re sure the only thing you write is crap. They are the ones who read half written first drafts and see the diamond among the coals when you think it would be better off burnt. They are the ones who know your writing as well, if not better, than you do.
Always acknowledge and give thanks to those friends who help you along the way.
Friends in Critics Clothes
Know who you can trust to give your work to for unbiased comment. While it is good to have friends, not all friends are equal. Don’t give it to just anyone.
If you have negative thoughts or voices in your head which prevents you from writing or makes you doubt yourself do some excavation to see who these thoughts and voices really belong to. Who was it that gave you unwarranted or overly harsh criticism aimed at you, not your writing? Who made you feel bad about yourself and your writing? Outs your monsters. They have no place on the journey you are going.
Community is everything! You don’t realise that until you join one, just what you’ve been missing. In this digital age geographical location is less important than like-mindedness and the internet open doors which did not exist a decade or more for writers.
I’m grateful for my writing community which spans the globe and the 24 hour clock. It requires far less energy to become involved in a community now, with ready-communities such as our wonderful [Fiction] Friday and as #fridayflash and #tuesdayserial provide a ready-made community to dive into. Write, post, submit, read, comment. And do it regularly. It really is that simple.
And while there is much debate over whether tweeting and commenting on Facebook is “real contact” I for one love the encouragement I get from my friends via social media.
There are also many great writing forums in which to meet, connect, mingle and share work. Although never a big one for forums, my favourite remains the forum at Editor Unleashed, but I know other people have favourite hang outs.
Have you ever considered writing collaboratively? When I started writing I didn’t give much thought to writing collectively – after all, isn’t writing a solo pursuit? I was lucky enough to learn it doesn’t have to be. When I fell into writing The Astonishing Adventures of Captain Juan I discovered how liberating it was to write with others. And how productive I could be when feeding off the ideas and writing with two other people. The chronicles of the good Captain remain my writer’s candy. Since then Paul and I have gone on to create Chinese Whisperings, bringing the thrill and challenges of collaborative writing to twenty other writers.
Have a crazy idea… there is someone else who will be as totally in love with the idea as you and have plenty of energy to invest in it. Collaboration has the potential to take ideas and projects places you’d never imagine. Don’t wait to be invited though – invite others and start the adventure.
On twitter you have unprecedented access to writers, publishers, journals, literary agents and editors. But carefully choose who you follow on Twitter – because a few well placed follows can bring a wealth of information your way for minimum effort.
My favourite people to follow for writing advice and great links are @JaneFriedman (from Writers Digest), @thecreativepenn and @elizabethscraig.
How do you find writers on twitter? Punch in a search for #writing, #writers #amwriting and get adventurous. A good chunk of writers Paul and I invited to be part of Chinese Whisperings were introduced to us/found via twitter. It is through Twitter I was able to be part of the fabulous 12 Days of Christmas project last year and became involved with Fourth Fiction last year. The possiblities are endless in the Twitterverse.
The Influence of Role Models
The great thing about role models is you may never meet them in person but it doesn’t stop them having a major impact on your work. Different people are drawn to different people, but listen to recommendations of writer friends you trust.
I was introduced to the work of Julia Cameron by the same friend who referred me here to [Fiction] Friday. Cameron’s work has been pivotal in my creative life. The first time I completed The Artists Way was the first time I really opened my eyes to my creative life and what I wanted from it. I quit my job as a magazine editor and turned my attention to writing. I believed for the first time I had it in me to be writer. I have since done The Artist’s Way another two times and I’m looking forward to making time in the second half of the year to do The Vein of Gold.
Then came Stephen King’s “On Writing” and I almost gave up writing – such was the wake up call he brought about good and bad writing. But I dug in and took his advice. I got rid of the dialogue attribution and the adverbs in my stories. And I was given an effective means for tackling a second draft. While I’ve never been a fan of his fiction, “On Writing” remains one of the most important books I’ve read.
There are a dozen or more writers whose work I love and admire – prose I wish I’d written, storylines I wish had come to me. And the more I read of them, the greater my desire to push my boundaries as a writer.
Comparing Yourself To Others
Stop now! You will never measure up to other people. There will always be other writers who will produce better work (in your eyes), more work, have a greater number of comments on their blogs and stories, have more work published, get more RTs… and the list goes on.
Know what is important to you – set your own goals and work to achieving them. Success is doing your best – YOUR best. And if you are writing to the best of your ability you are succeeding. Don’t be cut off at the knees comparing yourself to others – you will always come up short (no pun intended!)
Get to know your own process better in terms of how the people in your life influence your writing by answering these few questions. Everyone’s process is unique and understanding it allows you to write to the best of your ability.
- Who are the people who truly get you and your writing?
- Do you have people in your life who want to consciously or unconsciously sabotage your creative efforts? What’s the trade off for keeping them in your life?
- Do you belong to a community of writers, either online or in real life? Do you want to?
- List the ways your community supports and encourages you – or how you’d like a community to support and encourage you?
- Are you constantly comparing your work to the work of others in terms of quality, popularity and output? How does this impact your writing? How can you reframe this?
- When was the last time you let someone who inspires you know?
- How do you feel about collaborative writing? Is it something you’d like to trial? What collective writing projects have you been part of? How did it influence your writing?
- Do you have a role model for writing? Who is it? How do they/have they influenced your writing?
- Do you have a twitter account/Facebook author page? Can you afford not to?
- Who are you creative monsters? Take time to understand the way they hold you back. Release, banish, exorcise them? If you struggle with this – ask yourself what is the pay off for keeping them in your psyche?
Image: original photography (C) Jodi Cleghorn