The absolute best part of being in The Insecure Writers Support Group is that it’s an awful lot like being hit upside the head by a good friend as she screams, “You’re not alone, so stop freaking out!”
I always bought into the myth that writing is a solitary thing, and I guess it is true to a certain extent. After all, I sit down at the computer and spin tales out of my own imagination, and there’s nothing more solitary than that. I can talk to others and take breaks in mid-chapter if I really need a bit of social interaction once in a while, but in the long run this is something I’ve got to do on my own.
However, I have a hard time remembering that I don’t have to be alone every step of the way. No matter what I’m working on, no matter what I’m feeling, no matter how much I’m struggling, there are other writers who have been right here before. Either that, or they are right here with me now. Worried that everyone will hate your book? Been there. Scared that your first book was the only good one you’ve got in you? Felt that. Afraid that you really have no talent, but your friends are all too nice to tell you the truth? Oh, yeah, I’ve been there. I drive through that neighborhood every day.
I used to think that writers’ groups were all about providing critiques of each other’s work. Hey, I’m all in favor of that. Every single one of us needs to hear honest feedback – the good, the bad, and the incredibly painful. We also need to learn to take that honest feedback and learn from it without getting defensive or developing a victim complex. A good writers’ group is a great place to get all that.
But I’m finally starting to understand that there is so much more to it. Let me make a comparison here.
I used to be a cosmetologist, and the high point of my year was the annual Hair Show in the fall. It was basically two days of education and sales while surrounded by hundreds of well-dressed beauty professionals with gorgeous hair and fabulous make-up. Lots of samples, too much talking, and far too much alcohol, but oh-so-inspirational. An hour spent listening to Michael Cole, Susie Fields-Carder or Geno Stampora was like super-charging my soul. I would come back to work so motivated, so in love with my career, so full of faith in myself and my ability to thrive in a salon.
That’s what I get from being in writing groups like the KDP Author Forums or The Insecure Writers Support Group. I don’t comment often, but I have become a Lurker Extraordinaire. I read what everyone else is talking about, and I see other writers stepping forward to help each other rather than tear each other apart, which makes me feel like I’ve found a place to recharge whenever my self-doubts start threatening to take over.
It’s not about needing praise and good reviews, although those things are always appreciated. It’s not even about finding someone who’s honest enough to tell me when my work is weak and where it needs improvement, although – again – those things are so, so appreciated.
It’s about knowing that I’m not alone. I write by myself, but as a writer I’m part of something bigger. Whether it’s a bunch of small town writer wannabees meeting at the local library, or an online writers’ forum, we need each other. We are all part of a community.
Most of the time, I feel like I am in the position of needing more help and support than I give out to others, but it’s so important for all of us to remember that we’re all in this together. Sure, we’re competitors in the Big Picture, but we’re all co-workers in a lot of smaller pictures.
And I don’t know about anyone else, but I like it that way.