Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about the benefits of being pals with other writers. Last week at the inaugural Sarcastic Muse summit, most of my time was spent lost in the realm of writing. And I was able to spend this time with three of my favorite muses in person (well, sans Chris… We had his brain implanted into a droid body, so he wasn’t really there “in person”). The day before my departure from the summit, I realized that I really enjoyed conversing about writing on a daily basis.
All of my friends have varied backgrounds and interests. I adore each individual person. However, it was not until it was not until a few years ago that I began connecting with other writers. When I did, I found that their influence took my craft to a whole new level.
One thing that I always say is that “the writing craft is not a solo craft”. Yes, the act of writing itself is usually executed on a solidary basis. But as a writer, you have to connect with the world outside of your act of writing. As an introvert, this is something that I constantly struggle with and rely on all of my friends to drag me out from behind my computer.
Friends who are fellow writers (and fellow introverts) resonate with the whole “withdraw from the world” act. They understand it too well. And it is such a relief to not feel like I have to sheepishly apologize to them after I disappear for days on end. They know-they’ve been there.
Last August, Michelle wrote a post listing six reasons to have writer friends. Each point in her post rings true. As a writer, it is really hard for anyone who is not a writer to relate to you on a “writing level”. Non-writers find it so strange when mid-sentence you just stop talking and go inside your head because a thought popped up that related to a story. The next few minutes are spent immersed at the writing desk in your brain while the companions around you are trying to figure out why you are staring so intently at the chip-and-dip tray. They don’t understand and tend to tease you (in good jest) about your “mental escapes”. However, when these episodes occur in front of your writing friends, they become quiet and busy themselves with something else until you emerge from your grey matter. Then they immediately insist you tell-all as though you just kissed the boy/girl-of-your-dreams for the first time.
What a rush and inspiration it is to be able to share the eccentricities of being a writer with another person who can relate: talking of grammar, syntax, character development, killing darlings, and dreaming of publishing futures. From the experience that I had last week with Michelle, Robyn, and Chris, I have come up with a list of benefits from having writer friends:
- They understand the inner workings of your mind.
- They make for the best sounding boards when sorting out issues with plot, characters, scenes, etc.
- They are honest Beta Readers.
- They support you in everything you do (and help hide the bodies).
- They remind you to write.
- They threaten you to write.
- They let you know if your work is crap.
- They won’t laugh at you when you talk about your characters as if they were alive.
- They sympathize with your writing woes.
- They constantly inspire you.
Now, go out and give your writing buddy a big hug and tell them how much they mean to you!
This is so true. None of my friends are writers or have the slightest interest in the craft. I often find myself drifting off into my own world only to reconnect later to find them looking at me like I’m some sort of crazy woman. It’s reassuring to know I’m not! I definitely need a writing buddy!
Aileen, I can identify. Well, I do have a couple of long distance writer friends I know from grad school years ago, but my attempts to correspond and share writing haven’t worked–mainly because they don’t seem to have the time. I have met one or two through The Muse, but I’m a bit shy about how much I can reasonably ask them to look at.
The Muses would be happy to beta, I bet. Certainly I would when my schedule opens up a bit. And Robyn is like a vacuum. Put words in front of her and she devours them, so I’m sure she’d always jump on a chance to do some reading. (Sorry Robyn, I’m volunteering you. *hides*) At least beta-ing for others ensures that when my novel is finally finished, I’ll be able to call in a lot of favors. ;P
I’m willing 🙂
Yes I know what you mean, people have such busy lives, you don’t like to appear to impose on any free time that they have. Feedback is so crucial though if we want to grow as writers. Is The Muse an online forum for writers? Thanks for responding 🙂
You mean as in Sacasticmuse, I’m slow on the uptake. First time here! 😉
Aileen, I don’t have anyone local that I can talk to about writing and my family’s eyes just glaze over. Having online writing friends is a life saver!
It’s a comfort to know that I’m not alone! I’ve got to the point where I’ve stop talking about my writing to family and friends, so online friends with a genuine interest in writing are a boon to me. Thanks for commenting!
Aileen, you are definitely not a crazy woman! Besides our “own” worlds are the best places to escape. Reality can sometimes be somewhat… overwhelming.
Thank you, Amanda! My world can be a bit lonely sometimes but it makes perfect sense to me. Escapism is what we do best after all! Thanks for your kind words.
I am glad that you added “(and fellow introverts)” because…yeah. I connected with some folks in a private writing group on Facebook and G+ and it’s been very helpful. They are all more serious writers than I am, so I benefit a lot from their experience.I do my best to support them, but your list is helpful. 5,6 & 7 are the hardest for me to do with others, especially online others.
Social media has been a godsend for introverts. I feel like I am more connected to the world now than what I ever was before the Internet boom.
And for #6 – online threats to make people write is so much fun. Mainly because they can’t do anything back to you. You should try it 😉
Aside from my online writing friends, my physical circle of friends that comprise writers is, well, lacking. I can certainly appreciate that having these like-minded individuals in your circle – even for but a few days – would be extremely beneficial. As a fellow introvert who enjoys spurts of social interaction, I can so relate to the internal dilemma between “getting out there” and “staying inside”. And cats always seem to help balance the equation, when they aren’t running away with your toothbrush, climbing the bookcase, or chasing the reflection of your watch on the living room wall 😉
Never a shortage of things to talk about with writer friends. 🙂
Well, I do find cats to be fabulous writing buddies. That snooty, annoyed look that mine shoots me whenever I read my work out loud to her makes me think that I need to revise a bit more (my cat is my best critic – she hates everything).
Physical writing friends I have found hard to come by… I have a couple where I am located now, but the majority are online. But the wonders of Skype and such keep us all connected – even if it is just virtual.
I have to ask… your cat steals your toothbrush?!
Um, yeah – is that fall under the category of TMI? 😉 Ironically, we have four cats. We are huge Harry Potter fans. I am just making it through the series now. I am just about to begin the final book. Each of our four cats personalities fits perfectly into one of the four houses. I will let you guess which house the toothbrush stealing one belongs to 😉
Ha! Sounds like a fun cat though 😉
“There isn’t a wizard that’s gone bad that wasn’t in Slytherin” – did I guess that right?
Heh heh heh, the sorting hat is never wrong 😉
Like Aileen, I haven’t had much success building strong connections with other writers. Becaue I’m a stay-at-home dad, the internet is the best place for me to do that. So I’m wondering how the three of you have managed that. How did you identify other writers who might be a good fit? How have you figured out manageable boundaries for sharing your work with one another? I wouldn’t mind reading a pretty high amount of other people’s stuff, but I’m not sure how much of my writing others would have time to look at; so I wouldn’t want to put them in an awkward position, but I’d also like a good level of interaction. I’d appreciate any advice/suggestions you could give me.
Did you guys give Chloe the Cat *permission* to live Tweet the summit? Because I don’t know if you follow her on Twitter, but presented a pretty wild picture of the goings-on there.
Chloe and her feline brother, Duncan, were convinced Amanda and Michelle were there to see THEM, lol. Both of them wandered around like lost souls for two days afterward (or they were following me while I did the same). Chloe did not have permission to live tweet and she has been instructed to remove those photos. She just blinked and curled up on her pillow.
I met Amanda at an in-person writers’ meet-up when we were both living in Tennessee. She’s now on the east coast and I’m in Dallas, but Skype keeps us in (almost) daily touch. Michelle and I played an online game and she’d become friends with my husband’s friend and when Hubs found out she wrote, he kicked us into a chat together. The rest is history. 🙂 And again, Skype is our daily connection.
And because we were communicating so much, individual chats became group chats and group chats became a writers’ group and then critique group and then led to the birth of The Sarcastic Muse.
We met Chris through his stellar A-to-Z blog challenge posts and he was such a great fit we informed him we were keeping him. We pester him a lot. I sometimes think we just think we found and kept him and all the while it was his plan to keep us.
I think serendipity and being open to new relationships helps a lot in finding writer friends. Frequent communication helps once you meet them. We have a pretty deep trust, so there’s no shyness about passing our work to the others or providing feedback. We each know the other will serve the work, not ego. Time has taught us each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and I can pick their written voices out of a crowd now.
Regarding your question on how much others can read for you, we’re all pretty busy, so we sometimes have to schedule feedback. Quick things are usually read and commented on right away, but novels take more time. We are up front with each other about our schedules and when/how much time we can commit to a given piece.
If you are looking for places to form new friendships, Facebok has some writers groups and Twitter chats are also great for meeting other writers (such as #writestuff). Local writers’ groups work, too. And then there’s comments like these to help get to know other writers as well.
I know that’s a really long response. Hopefully I hit all your questions. If not, just add another comment.:)
Robyn very nicely summed it all up. Before I met her, I didn’t know any writers and I didn’t interact online to find them either (mostly because I’m super introverted and private about my work). The Sarcastic Muse has been a great learning experience for me and now I don’t know how I went so long without having other writers in my life.
In general, since I’m such a slow writer, I tend read other people’s work much more than I have mine read. But as I said above, I know that whenever I do have something I need beta-ed, I can count on the people I have read for to return the favor. As Robyn said, we’re upfront about our schedules, so that helps, and I personally give writers clear boundaries. For novels, for instance, I require at least a month to read it — usually because I want to be able to take the time to give helpful feedback. If I read for the writer and they don’t return the favor (and this has happened before), I simply don’t read for them again.
When finding readers/writers, it’s really a game of intuition, I think. You can usually get a feel for a person by reading their blogs and chatting with them, etc. If they have samples of their writing, I’d read through them and see what you think. Also, I try to find people who write in similar genres because a.) they know what to look for in my own manuscript and b.) they write what interests me so I enjoy reading their work. The Muses write under an umbrella of interests (though not necessarily from the same angle), which adds to our individual interpretations of a particular work. We are all very different writers with different literary interests, but we tend to have some form of common ground (a leaning toward speculative fiction or literary, etc).
I’ve beta-read for other people outside of TSM with mixed success. There are only a couple instances that I can think of where I told writers I wouldn’t read for them again (usually because of attitude problems), but I said it as professionally and politely as possible. So you always have the option to say no, too, if you get the sense that the writing relationship won’t be mutually beneficial.
Robyn and Michelle (as an aside, Romy and Michelle flashed through my head for a moment there), thanks so much for taking to time to respond. Your comments have been very helpful. It still feels a bit like crossing the gym floor at junior high Homecoming and asking someone to dance, but since the alternative is just standing against the wall all evening, I’m going to have to take the plunge :~) Btw, if either of you ever have something you’d be willing to let me look at, I’d be happy to do so. And I love this blog.
Glad the comments were helpful. Taking the plunge is definitely much better than being a wall flower. 🙂 I’ll add you to the list, then, of people I plan to bombard with my novel. And feel free to send something my way (after next month).
Thanks Michelle. I look forward to seeing what you’re working on. And don’t worry, I won’t have anything in a condition for looking at for a couple of monthst anyway, by my reckoning.
Apparently writing groups are trending topics this week! Figured I share this article by Lauren Sapala. She talks about how she found/founded her own group. So that’s one way to go about it.
Well, Robyn pretty much took the words out of my mouth. So I will avoid writing a novel here 😉 And you know I am always here to talk about the wonderful world of writing (and read anything that you want beta’d)!
* Chloe the Cat has since been reprimanded by withholding her treat rations for the next month.
Withhold Chloe’s treat rations and Robyn’s not the only one who may go Hulk Smash.
Believe me, I haven’t forgotten your offer to read my stuff when I’m ready. Eventually you’ll also be hearing from me. 🙂