The importance of having writer friends
I think I’ve probably talked about this before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever laid out the point quite like I’m about to. What point is that?
One of the most important steps in your writing journey is forming friendships with other writers.
I didn’t appreciate this as a young writer–back in my tween and teen years. I had Fictionpress, but it was a community of anonymous writers. And while the feedback those people gave me all those years ago was absolutely invaluable, I wasn’t open to intimate writing relationships.
Even three years ago, when I first started my journey to publication, I was wary of forming friendships with other writers. Actually, wary isn’t the right word–scared is more like it. I was afraid to reach out because–like most people and situations in life–I was scared of rejection. What if other writers thought I sucked? What if they didn’t want to be my friend or help me with my writing?
But then my dad said something to me. He said, “If you want to be an artist, you need to find other artists. Having other writers to talk to is something you’re going to need.”
My father is a photographer of the very creative, deeply-moved variety. He is, quite simply, an artist, and when he gave me that piece of advice back in 2009, I totally ignored it. I thought photography and writing were totally different animals, and…well, I was scared of rejection.
So other than a few more anonymous and ultimately short-lived interactions with writing communities online, I again tried to rough it on my own.
And then one day, I met Holly Dodson. We became crit partners…then friends. I realized that just being able to throw the word “character arc” in an email and have someone understand made my DAY.
So I reached out further, and met Kat Brauer. We became crit partners…then friends. Suddenly, I was having full conversations about writing with two people–and it felt AMAZING.
Well, feeling empowered and less shy, I decided to apply to Let the Words Flow when they were seeking a new member…and this seemingly small move ultimately changed my life. It opened up a huge world of new friendships–and not just with the LTWF girls, but with their readers as well.
Then I met Meredith McCardle, Happy LaShelle, Erica O’Rourke, Amity Thompson, AND SO MANY MORE.
Then–to make my life even fuller and more amazing–LTWF evolved into Pub(lishing) Crawl, and through that, I made more friends.
Now I have an entire freaking NETWORK of close, dear, I-cannot-function-without FRIENDS. Friends who are also writers. Friends I can email whenever I need to rant about the latest book deal that sounds just like my WIP. 😉 Friends who understand that if I vanish for a week, it’s nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, it’s probably means I’ve been in the writing trenches, and that’s actually worth celebrating.
So Dad, you were right: I needed writers to talk to. I need writers to talk to, and at the end of the day, they’re just as scared of rejection as I am–and that’s part of what makes our bonds so strong.
You tell me: do you have writer friends? Or, if you’re not a writer, do you have a support network like this?
May 21, 2012 @ 10:57 am
Haha you all look amazing/hilarious! Definitely webcam’s best features. It sounds all types of wonderful to have such a close-knit network of writer friends. I know several lovely writers at university, but only a couple are novelists and none write YA. D: After exams, I’m planning to launch myself into forums and crit partner watercoolers everywhere – there’s definitely something to be said for people who understand the madness and joy of writing. And why chocolate is absolutely essential. I guess the difficulties lie in actually FINDING crit partners and writer friends. I love the generous, supportive dynamic of Let the Words Flow/Pub(lishing) Crawl – if only there were more like it out there! Thanks for this post. 🙂 xx
May 21, 2012 @ 7:22 pm
You know, it took me one bad CP before I met Holly. The key is to only exchange a few chapters at first and then see how things go. You don’t want to be with someone much less advanced than you–or someone who just isn’t very nice! Good luck and happy writing!
May 21, 2012 @ 12:49 pm
Yes! I totally agree. I met my first CP via Verla Kay’s blueboards in mid 2010, and ended up flying across the country to go to her wedding last summer (which was kinda hard for ”real life” friends to understand, but whatev! :-)) Since then, I’ve become part of a small critique group that’s a spinoff of a MediaBistro course we all took together. I’m the youngest in the bunch, but it’s so fun to chat about life with these special ladies! My story would be nowhere without them.
May 21, 2012 @ 12:51 pm
And I almost forgot meeting Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner last year in Melbourne! That was the best coffee+book chat date ever!
May 21, 2012 @ 7:23 pm
You’re so right that “real life” friends don’t get it! When ever I say I’m meeting one of my CPs, people are like, “You know this person over the internet? And you’re flying to AMERICA to meet her?” But they don’t GET that sharing mss and emails is so, so, SO bonding!
May 21, 2012 @ 1:04 pm
Soooo true! It makes so much difference. It has only been this year that I’ve been able to really make connections with people through a writing group called The Steady Table. Such a nice bunch of people! and I can talk about the dreaded ADVERB etc and not be weird! I also didn’t expect other writers to be soooo friendly, warm and willing to promote other writers.
May 21, 2012 @ 7:24 pm
Hahaha–the dreaded adverb. But you’re right that writers are usually REALLY warm and willing to go out of their way to help each other. We’re all in this together, right?
May 21, 2012 @ 2:21 pm
Preach it, homeless dude/angel who unintentionally looks a little like Jesus. Writing friends are crucial to maintaining sanity. I’d be lost without you ladies. <333
May 21, 2012 @ 7:24 pm
Fo. Real. <3
May 21, 2012 @ 2:48 pm
<3 I would be utterly lost without my writer friends. No doubt about it.
May 21, 2012 @ 7:25 pm
You’re my fiiiiiiirst writer friend. HUGGLES and SICKENINGLY SWEET SQUEALY VOICE.
May 21, 2012 @ 3:13 pm
Great Post…would love some advice on where to search out some writing buddies…
May 21, 2012 @ 7:26 pm
Hi Poppy! I met Holly Dodson and Kat Brauer through YALitChat. If you write YA, then that’s a great place to meet writers. Another option is to find your niche on Absolute Write and reach out to people there. I’m also a big fan of Savvy Authors (though I think it might cost)–that community is SO supportive.
May 21, 2012 @ 3:44 pm
Amen, sistah– it’s wonderful!
May 21, 2012 @ 7:27 pm
Woohoo! <3 <3
May 21, 2012 @ 4:02 pm
<3 <3 <3 x 100000000 bazillion 🙂
May 21, 2012 @ 7:28 pm
Pffft. I can’t top that many hearts…except by pulling the infinity card. <3 * ∞
May 21, 2012 @ 4:26 pm
Aw, Sooz — thank you! As always, you’re spot on. Finding writer friends was essential for me, because the publishing world is nothing if not a giant kettle o’crazy-making. Having people I could trust and who understood the crazy because they’d endured it, too, made all the nuttiness — both good AND bad — manageable.
Now, get yourself over to Chicago so we can hang out more! xoxo
May 21, 2012 @ 7:29 pm
So, so true–giant kettle o’ crazy-making is the publishing world to tee. Seeing how you’ve had to talk me off the ledge a few times……I might not be alive if it weren’t for you. 😉
May 21, 2012 @ 5:32 pm
Well, as usual you have inspired me! I needed to hear this–I really would like to reach out a little more and brave that scared feeling you were talking about… so…does anyone else want to be my friend? haha!
Thanks Susan- you have helped me so much on this writerly journey and I am honored to be your friend <3
May 21, 2012 @ 7:30 pm
If only I had the time, I could set up a CP-matching service a là eHarmony. 😉
May 21, 2012 @ 6:51 pm
To be honest with you, whenever I see a post like this is it drives me crazy, mostly because I agree with you SO MUCH. There are countless times when I’m scribbling in my journal about all these things I already know about my writing, because I’m so desperate to talk about them. And it drives me crazy because, of course, I’m scared of rejection…and on top of that, I have school, homework, my (albeit wonderful, but not writer) friends, family, and writing to keep me busy. I know that I’m partially just using them as an excuse not to reach out there, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to try and reach out when I wouldn’t be able to do a totally dedicated job of it.
All in all, though, seriously, good advice. 🙂
May 21, 2012 @ 7:31 pm
Oh, I know the journal-writing-pain. I have been there. Then I got burned with my first CP, who wasn’t all that nice or experienced. I was afraid to try again, but I’m so glad I did. It’s terrifying to reach out, but it’s usually the only way to meet new people–and we REALLY need these people. But hey, until you have the time or desire to make those friends, you can just hang out on my blog or the Pub Crawl blog and revel in our community. 🙂 No need to abandon anonymity until you’re ready.
May 21, 2012 @ 6:55 pm
Great post! I think you’re totally right- I know the feeling of really wanting to open up with someone about your writing failures/successes but never having anyone to talk to.
Like your other commenters, I’m curious- do you have any advice on where to find someone? [Haha, I feel like I’m asking for dating advice.] Being fairly young, I’d like to find someone my own age, but worry that this restricts me- not because teens are bad writers, but because I don’t know of many teen-oriented places to meet writing partners.
May 21, 2012 @ 7:35 pm
Hey Kat! It IS like dating, isn’t it? Like I said in a comment above, meeting other writers is easiest online. What genre do you write in? If you’re in YA, then YALitChat is a great community to join! That’s where I met Holly and Kat. You might also try Absolute Write (if you can find your niche in there) or Savvy Authors (which targets–though is hardly limited to–romance writers and is AMAZING).
I do think trying to only search for someone your own age might limit you…but if that’s definitely what you’d like, then you might be interested in the teen writer group on YALitChat. I totally understand why you’d prefer to work with a fellow teen. 🙂
May 21, 2012 @ 10:18 pm
So. True. I have a couple close friends who are also writers, and being able to talk with them about things is so valuable. They get it when I complain abou my characters misbehaving and causing trouble when non-writers would just look at me and ask, aren’t you the writer? Can’t you just make them do whatever you want? (oh, if only it was that easy!)
May 21, 2012 @ 10:45 pm
Lots of hugs and love in this post! YES, finding good writer friends is so so so important on this journey. We need someone to laugh and cry with, someone to tell us when our writing is good (and when it’s god awful terrible), someone to complain with, someone to pick us up when we feel like giving up. I love my writing friends!
I have such a huge smile on my face now. Thanks for the great reminder. 🙂
May 21, 2012 @ 10:52 pm
Great point–and something I totally struggle with. Scared of rejection pretty much sums it up 🙂 And so many writer-types are shy in real life and that translates to shy in internet-life, too. But I have found that there are very few writers who don’t struggle with the same fears–and so usually are welcoming and excited to find someone to connect with. Sometimes maintaining long-distance, long-term writing friendships is challenging, too–but worth it!
May 22, 2012 @ 12:38 am
Unfortunately, I have no friends or family who are writers, so they totally don’t get my dreams of writing. I’ve only told one of my closest friends about my manuscript, but she couldn’t read it because she can’t read anything remotely scary. It feels very lonely, sometimes, to not have anyone to bounce ideas off of or to share my fears of rejection with (and boy, do I have a lot of those!) So, it mostly feels just like me, writing, hoping someone else will actually WANT to read my work. I definitely need to check out those sites you mentioned, perhaps find other writers like me who may become CP’s? (Although it seems so scary to share so much of what I love with people I’ve never met, but hopefully, it will be exactly what I need to write my absolute best). I think it’d make the writing process a lot less fearful. Thanks, again, Susan for all your wonderful advice. I still can’t imagine that you, who wrote the crazy wonderful SS&D, has the some of the same kinds of fears that I do, a nobody would-be writer in the middle of nowhere. Thanks for such an insightful, helpful post 🙂 You’ve been more helpful to me than absolutely anyone else, more than I ever could ask for!
May 22, 2012 @ 8:06 am
My best friend is my first writer friend– actually, she was the one who introduced me to writing in the first place (although I’m pretty sure she’ll make this face >> if I tell her I haven’t written anything properly for a few months– unless you count the short stories I submitted in class and barely coherent fanfiction). She is absolutely amazing, and so is my other friend I met in college, and my cousin. I love listening to them talk about their writing (and in my best friend’s case, annoying her into sending me her WIP/draft which she refuses to show anyone for reasons unknown).
May 22, 2012 @ 8:52 pm
I have one writing friend from college that I still critique with and I have a network of writer/bloggers who are really awesome. I actually have a gigantic amazing network of book-lovers who will gush over books with me for hours which is too much fun. Definitely need to create a bigger group of writing-specific critique friends though.
May 24, 2012 @ 4:18 am
Conversations about writing are the best! There’s always this disconnect when I try to talk about books with, ah, lay people. I get so excited just talking about plot or character arcs! And then my friends, even ones who might enjoy reading a great deal, go all “0_O…yeah, it’s good…” I don’t know what I’d do without my writer friends. Y’all are way too fluffy and awesome.
Many, many hearts!!
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May 26, 2016 @ 12:54 am
Susan, how do I get hold of you? I have a question
May 27, 2016 @ 2:01 am
Hi there, I’m Susan’s assistant. You can always email her/me at: Susan [at] susandennard.com or post your question in the forum here – http://forum.susandennard.com/forums/forum/for-writers/ask-sooz-a-question