Give a Little Bit

IWSG

As a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my insecurities and worries with like-minded people. It has been so refreshing to discover that other writers are feeling some of the same things, fighting some of the same inner battles.  Two things I keep hearing over and over: we’re all in this together, and we are not alone.

So what’s my freak-out for this month’s IWSG post?

I worry that I take more than I give. After all, what have I got to offer other writers? Who am I to give advice? Let’s face it; I’m a self-published romance writer who doesn’t earn enough to support myself with my writing. I’m part of a crowd, lost in a sea of self-published authors in a huge genre. I’m not exactly a glowing success with heaps of wisdom to bestow on others.

Some folks might even call me a failure as a writer.

I work three part-time jobs on top of writing and still can’t make my rent, but I’m optimistic enough to keep writing anyway. Or stupid enough. I’m not sure which. Depends on how much coffee I’ve had on any given day, I guess.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet one of my writing heroes. She treated me with respect as a fellow writer; she gave me useful advice and some great writing tips, but she did so much more than that. She believed in me. She didn’t mock me or condescend to me, or treat me like someone chasing a stupid dream. I don’t think I would have finished my first book without her encouragement.

Since then, I’ve encountered so many others who have given me that same gift. The kindness of my fellow writers has been nearly overwhelming. These guys give, give, give. Sometimes they give great advice, and sometimes they merely dispense a heartfelt “attagirl” at just the right moment. There are days when my fellow writers tell me something I really need to hear at a time when I really don’t want to hear it, and they care enough to tell me anyway.

How many times can I say thank you before the words begin to lose their meaning? How do I give back? In the grand scheme of things in the writing world, I’m pretty much a nobody at this point.

I worry that I’m wearing out my welcome among writing groups by always taking, taking, taking the good stuff and having so little to offer in return. If the time ever comes that I can truly call myself a success, I’ll do everything I can to reach out for those who are struggling in all the ways I’m struggling right now. But until that day, how do I pull my own weight among my peers?

I’m interested in hearing what some of you do to support each other, no matter what your level of success. I’d welcome any tips or suggestions on what I can do to give little something back to the writing community.

Full Support

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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.