Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Writing Success: Community and Trust

They say that having one true friend is worth a hundred 'friends'. I'm inclined to agree with this statement. Having friends is like being in a married relationship only without needing to divide up the money and children if you decide to end it. But you do everything together. You're with each other when the times are good, and especially when the times are bad. We judge each other, but only with love. Okay, and sarcasm. But mainly love. I swear.

Very often artists find themselves in families where their talent isn't appreciated. They'll tell you things like this:

"Art (Writing/acting/singing/cooking etc) isn't a stable career."

"You're going to *insert art form* for a living? There's no money/future in that."

"Why don't you just get married to someone rich instead?"

"This is just a hobby/phase. You'll grow out of it."

"Stop dreaming."

Sound familiar to any of you? I grew up in a strange family where  I was told mixed things. I had a father who told me I was talented, and a mother who was constantly mad at me for not paying attention in school (sorry mom!) and reading book after book, or writing, or drawing, and told me that it (all of my art) wasn't going to help my future. Often times I was told that any form of an art career was a bad idea. But one day I found in high school that they had a thing called an 'art class' that you could take everyday. My world changed.

I was suddenly surrounded by people just like me, whose parents didn't fully believe in them or their talents (and while yes, some where just there for an elective, the more serious and er, well, more talented artists always found each other). You weren't alone. You could talk about your favorite passion, the thing that fed your soul, and these people got it. Because they were just like you.

And then the internet happened. Suddenly there were thousands of people my age (or older) who not only helped me improve my writing, but built me up and supported me even though they'd never seen my face (no FB. Avatars were big in the late 90's 2000's). You belonged to a community. You belonged.

 To make it in this world of parents and family that don't always believe in you, you need trust in your community. Sure, as a writers I believe in myself (most day. Sometimes. When the moon is full), but I feel much more able to believe it when I have other artists (they don't have to be writers!) help me on my tough days.

This is a completely normal greeting to an artist. I swear.
On the days when I feel like a crap writer, a crap human being, I know I can go to an art friend with my heart in my hands and they'll give it a hug and then slap me and tell me to keep going because, "dammit Katie, you have work to do! Don't waste your talent!" I'm incredibly lucky I have friends who are writers and understand what I'm going through, and don't just encourage me with words, but actively make sure I stay on task when I'm down. Even online, with people I've yet to meet!

As a writer handing over your work to some one online who you 'kinda know' is freaking scary. You hear those stories of people getting their ideas stolen and published, of communities that troll each other and tear each other apart. That is NOT a community. Communities build you up and argue with you to make your work better. Like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien did for each other. If a writer in your community does nothing but spew negativity and compare their 'brilliant work' to yours (or says you should be writing more like them), then kick them out of the community asap. Or leave if they're all like that. You don't need that. We as writers are already unfairly hard on ourselves, we don't need to surround ourselves with people who don't believe in you. That's why we left home.

Need I say more?

Just walk away from it guys. Just walk away.
Finding the right online community is hard, its a lot of trial and error. But to be a successful writer we need it. We need a good community both online and offline, and trust. You won't make it in this world without it. I know not every writer is super outgoing like myself and therefor, an online community is a great idea! So is Twitter! I was reluctant to join Twitter because I wanted to be FRIENDS with writers not just look at their news feeds. I wanted to support them and to have support back. To make real connections. And lo and behold, I found them!

Sure, there are writers who don't give me the time of day even when I carefully craft a message to them, but then I meet the ones who are like me! Published, represented, or self published, they're willing to reach out and be a friend. Willing to trade stories and critique. And when you make it big or they do, you're happy for each other! And it's AMAZING. That is the power of TRUST and COMMUNITY. You have to open your heart up, and take a chance. Use your common sense. If you don't feel comfortable or safe sharing your story to some one who asks to see it, then by all means, say no. 

But you can't do this all by yourself, even if you self publish. You need a community. You need people willing to do your cover, your formats, your editing (if you get an editor, which I recommend), and even beta readers. You, as a writer, are not alone. It takes a village to raise your book.

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