• Do You Have a Writer Friend to Turn To?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 44 comments
    May
    4

    Discussion question: When you’re full of anxious fears and frustrations about your writing, do you have a writing friend to turn to? Someone you can text or email or call who can offer not only encouragement and support but real understanding? Tell us about him or her in the comments. What does a typical conversation look like? What do you get out of it, and what does he/she get out of it?

    If you don’t have a writer friend to turn to, do you want one? Or do you feel better off going it alone?

     

    Wednesday night I had a laughable text exchange with a panicking writer friend. The same writer friend who fields texts from me when I’m panicking about my own work. It’s our thing.

    Here is an excerpt; I’m sure it’ll feel familiar to you:

     

    Him: I emailed you something to read. Feeling real sweaty about it … Where’s the chapter you were going to send?

    Me: I have a draft of Chapter 2, but I fear it’s garbage.

    Him: Oh, that’s my fear about my thing. Should I hire an editor or a shrink?

    Me: A shrink for sure.

    Him: Would you please read it for me soon? I’ll never ask you to read these opening pages again, I promise. I don’t know how I dare burden you with them again.

    Me: I should be able to read them Friday at the latest, tomorrow [Thursday] if we get lucky.

    Him: Oh please tomorrow, if you value my sanity. Today I felt so good that I had come up with SOMETHING. But now I’m not so sure.

    Me: I think that’s just our lot.

    Him: Your book is going to be finished and winning awards and I won’t have finished mine.

    Me: At this pace my book will be done by 2045.

     

    Look at the wonderful variety of fears we both showcase during this conversation! And those are just the ones on the surface. For example, I didn’t even mention to him the horror that ran through me when he said my book will be “winning awards.”

    But after talking it through, we both felt better. Not better better. But better.

    It’s so valuable to have someone with whom you can share your writing fears and frustrations and who will — and this is the important part — understand. Non-writer friends and family can offer sympathy or encouragement, but they’ll never be able to do what we really need them to do: reply with, “Ugh, I know. I’m going through the same thing.”

     

    Elsewhere in the conversation I asked if there was anyone else, in addition to me, who could read his pages.

    “No,” he replied. “You know I don’t know other writers.”

    The isolation in that comment was palpable. My panicky writer friend doesn’t belong to any workshop or critique group, doesn’t attend readings, networking events, anything.

    But when my panicky writer friend is panicking about his book, he has one person to turn to: his panicky writer friend, me.

    And when I’m panicking about my own book, I have one person to turn to: my panicky writer friend.

     

    To see just one reason this is so valuable, let’s revisit the “garbage” part of the conversation:

     

    Him: Where’s the chapter you were going to send?

    Me: I have a draft of Chapter 2, but I fear it’s garbage.

    Him: Oh, that’s my fear about my thing.

     

    Me expressing a fear about my writing causes him to express the same fear about his own writing, which leads to us both realizing we’re not alone, which makes us feel, if even for only a moment, comforted.

    Writing is hard enough already without adding isolation on top of it.

    So, when it’s eleven o’clock at night and you’re full of anxiety and fears and frustrations about your writing, I hope you have someone you can text or call or email, someone who can offer the kind of insight, or even just understanding, that can come only from a person — a writer — who’s going through the same things.

     

    If you do have such a person, tell us about him or her in the comments. What does a typical conversation look like? What do you get out of it, and what does he/she get out of it? How did this relationship develop? What is the darkest moment that he/she has pulled you out of?

    Hell, you could even use this as an opportunity to thank your writer friend in public.

    Meanwhile, some writers truly don’t need a writer friend. And that’s cool. I’m not one of them, but sometimes I wish I were.

    If you don’t have such a person, why not? Have you tried to find one? Have you had missteps? Or do you not want one, and if so, why not?

    And if you do want one, maybe you can find him or her here? Don’t be shy about chatting each other up.

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Stephen GlickHans De LéoDavid DuhrSusanadrienne leslie Recent comment authors
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    Barbara Mealer
    Guest

    I have no writer friends like that. The writer’s group I joined is starting a critique group so I’ll be able to get feedback. Up until now, I’ve been relying on what I’d like to read premise which worked, but I do feel someone else looking at the work would be better. Because I a virtual hermit, I seldom interact with others, so I’m having to push my self from my shell and get going with sharing my work before publishing now that I’m improving on what I’m doing. I may find that person yet. Since I joined the group,… Read more »

    Aubrey Love
    Guest

    Barbara, I feel your pain. I once was a member of a writing group, I guess technically I still am, and I had a friend like that. A friend I could bounce ideas off of and she in-turn would bounce things off me. It was a great benefit to have someone like that. Although we never met in person, I feel like we were best friends. Sadly she past away a few years ago and consequently, I have slumbered into a writing depression with only an occasional article or two here and there. I long to have someone like that… Read more »

    Susan
    Guest
    Susan

    Barbara, I total relate to the Hermit instinct. It seems sometimes the very thing that makes us good writers–being introverted is the thing that keeps us isolated from other writers (or is that wrong? Probably there are extroverted writers too, but I don’t know any because I’m too introverted) See that’s why you need writer friends to keep you from spinning your wheels in circular self talk. I don’t have any close writer friends. I have a cousin who’s generous with critiques, but he’s way more accomplished than I am so I only send him stuff when I think it’s… Read more »

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    Hi Susan this became more long-winded than I intended. A writers’ group needs to be small. The senior center Scribblers, (the group I’m in) are becoming too large 10to 12. I think 4 to 8 is better. Most of the group are poets. Although I have written poetry and respect it and those who write it, I have no interest in it. Everybody in the groups is as much as 25 yrs. older then me (I’m 68) There is a lot of crosstalk, some off-subject comments and very little useful criticism. With that said, I like and admire each of… Read more »

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    I’m in Brookfield, WI.

    Stephen Glick
    Guest

    Barbera I also may be considered a hermit. Sadly I have no writing friends. I pay a writing coach and I do feel I benefit greatly from her incite.feel free to email me .Ilove to chit chat about books and ideas. All the best , Stephen.

    Barbara Mealer
    Guest

    Stephen, just contact me at bamealer@bamealer.com I did try to go to your website but the link wasn’t working.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    It’s good to be in a writer’s group. I’ve been in two. In the first on everyone was published somewhere; poems, essays, articles, short stories, memoirs, but no one wrote novels and everyone was older then me. The facilitator, a incredible woman, a journalist now nearly 100, knew writing but was clueless about fantasy or science fiction. After years of going even burning vacation days to go, I just stopped going. The other one is less “professional” more likely to wonder into tangents and less likely to give a good critique, but more likely to share inner stuff and listen… Read more »

    Susan
    Guest
    Susan

    David, how fascinating that you are a psychic. I once wrote a story based on something that had happened to my great grandfather. I didn’t know much so I had to make up a good story to fit the few bits of info we had. For a complete different reason I went to get a reading from psychics at the First Spiritualist Church, and, incredibly, the woman doing my reading related my entire story to me, telling me she was in contact with my great Grandpa at that moment. No way she could have read it. She read my mind,… Read more »

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    Most of my life, I have been extremely introverted. When I was developing my psychic abilities after attending a psychic development workshop at the Church Of Spiritual Light, I had to become an extrovert, even if it was, for a time, uncomfortable. I always say hi, start conversations, with strangers and always ask questions and participate at talks and events. I can’t tell you how much I think this has improved my writing, especially dialogue and interaction.

    Jerry Schwartz
    Guest
    Jerry Schwartz

    I belong to a fiction writers group. We meet once a month. Our meetings are run according to very strict rules: Three submissions per month Newbies have to attend two meetings before they can submit Five thousand words per submission (some leniency here) Author cannot submit in two consecutive months Author has three minutes to comment before criticism begins We go around the table, and each attendee gets three minutes to say their piece No crosstalk Author has three minutes to respond These rules ensure that the meetings stay on track, but some of the limitations can be annoying. If… Read more »

    adrienne leslie
    Guest
    adrienne leslie

    would you mind sharing what city the workshop’s in–

    Jerry Schwartz
    Guest
    Jerry Schwartz

    West Hartford CT

    Jerry Schwartz
    Guest
    Jerry Schwartz

    There are actually several writers groups in our area. This happens to be the one that is most geographically desirable.

    My niece, who has four published novels to her name, is in one that isn’t that far away as the crow flies; but the crow doesn’t fly there. It’s all up hill and down dale through nasty traffic. For some reason most of the groups, seminars, worships, and such are to the north of Hartford, and I live to the south.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    If it was your universe and your writers group, what changes would you make?

    Jerry Schwartz
    Guest
    Jerry Schwartz

    There are things I would like to see done differently, especially the restrictions that make it hard to deal with longer pieces. However, as a practical matter I don’t see how to make those changes. Some people are writing novels. Some authors do attach a previous chapter for background, but not everybody reads them.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    Unlike most of the rest of the group consisting mostly of poets and people writing articles and memoirs, I often bring four long pages to writer’s group, sometimes with a different work in between,(the prompt or another work.) One lady, a retired English teacher, is great on grammar but is easily confused and forgetful and has never read fantasy or science fiction. For her benefit and the rest of the group, I write a preface, a paragraph of what important stuff happened recently. We print 10 copies and read aloud. On mine, read the first page and everybody reads half… Read more »

    Raymundo
    Guest

    I don’t have a writing buddy at the level of closeness you suggest. I do belong to a critique group of some good people that has been very helpful to me. Most would probably be OK with a panicky email from me, but I don’t want to so burden someone who is not a close writer-friend (somewhere on the Tolkien–CS Lewis scale). Probably such a relationship would be helpful, because it goes beyond the constraints of a writers group, but I don’t think it’s a relationship that can be forced. It just has to happen from sympathetic vibrations.

    adrienne leslie
    Guest
    adrienne leslie

    I have a writer friend! I wrote my manuscript first and she followed with hers. I learned quickly that introducing myself as a teacher, invited approval, while saying, “I’m a writer,” often brought withering smiles. Lyn was always interested and not shy with opinions. Even when her edits sounded like-“Your baby is ugly.”, I knew she was on to something. One morning on our walks together, I told her I was killing off my main character’s best friend. “Not Libby!” she panicked as if a real person was dying. That’s why, even after 5 books & with 5 states between… Read more »

    Susan
    Guest
    Susan

    Hi David, You know there is nothing I would love more than to have a writing coach, but I just can’t swing it financially. My proposition for the next health care bill is that being a writer is actually a diagnosable condition that requires a therapist (or a writing coach) and should be covered by insurance. I have joked with people, but I’m maybe not actually joking, that I think fiction writing is just a form of multiple personality disorder made slightly more acceptable by posing as a profession or hobby and putting all those personalities to use as characters… Read more »

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    I had a writing coach when I took a novel writing class at Writer’s digest. However, he didn’t know writing as well as he thought. When I finished the class he had all the praises for my work, but when I had it critiqued by a actual professional, the results were in a word, disappointing. It wasn’t money wasted, since over time, it got me here, but still.
    Anyway, can I get this writer’s mental health care rider on my Medicare?

    Susan
    Guest
    Susan

    I’ll ask my good friend Joe about the rider.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    David, I think you are very lucky to have that kind of friendship with a fellow writer.

    Hans De Léo
    Guest
    Hans De Léo

    Yes, I’ve had several. It started with a critique group, and then I moved to a full up novel review group. In the critique group I could work on specific skills like character development or interactive settings, you name it. The novel review group was where I could submit an entire manuscript for review (we each took turns), and get a complete review/critique of the entire work. Both have their uses, and both are missing in my life now due to a relocation. I’m in the process of building a novel review group here in Duluth, Minnesota. It’s on meetup.com.… Read more »




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