One of the easiest things you can do as a writer seeking publication is turn writing into a competition. After all, so many people want to write and be published, and agents and publishers can only choose some of them, right? That makes other writers your competition, right?
Wrong. I spent years living with this mindset. It felt as if everyone around me wanted to be a writer. When someone achieved what I couldn't, I felt bitter. I felt pushed down, further away from my goal.
But that was such a lie, one bred by the oh so infamous feeling of jealousy. This mindset never once helped me. Ever. In fact, it only hurt me because if anything held me back, it was thinking that the success of others negated my own potential success.
Now, after a year of experiencing various writing communities through Twitter, I see reason. Writer friends will be your salvation in the long and emotional journey towards publication. They build you up, cheer you on, and have the guts to tell you what needs to change to improve your writing. So if you've ever questioned the need for writer friends, here are my five reasons to befriend other writers:
1. You Build Each Other Up
Writer friends become your support system. Writing, editing, pitching, and querying can be very taxing activities. If you isolate yourself, you have to handle that strain on your own. But with writer friends, you have a supportive group of people there to point out what you are doing well and encourage you to continue. You have someone to give you a shoutout on social media, help you gain a following, and/or help you find a community.
It's also not a one-way street. Just as your friends support you, you should support them back. Encourage them, brag about them, and support them through both the celebrations and the disappointments.
2. You Cheer Each Other On
Sometimes you need cheerleaders in your life, and writer friends fit that role perfectly. Are you pitching an agent in person at a conference? Your writer friends can give you that much-needed pep talk beforehand. Are you participating in a pitch event on Twitter? Your writer friends can comment on and quote tweet that pitch to bolster your visibility (and your confidence). Are you 20,000 words deep into a mentally exhausting revision? Your writer friends will remind you that You. Can. Do. It.
Also, being a cheerleader for someone else is fun, believe it or not. When your friends achieve something big or small, it feels great to celebrate with them. Much better than feeling bitter.
3. You Offer Each Other Valuable Critique
It's great when friends and family members are willing to read your work, but oftentimes, they don't get nitty-gritty in their feedback. That's okay. It's totally understandable, even. They read your work as readers. But when someone reads your work as another writer, they get nitty-gritty. Trust me. (And it's great.)
Detailed, honest feedback makes you a better writer as long as you are willing to accept and grow from that feedback. Writers read work and see how it can be improved. They view it as a work-in-progress, which enables them to see the threads that work and the ones that seem weak. Yes, I love this setting and adore this side character but what if you cut out these two characters, made your main character responsible for the death of that villain, heightened the social conflict behind the primary plot--
You get the point. My friend M.J. told me this morning that having beta readers gave her a whole new perspective on her writing, and it's true. Having another writer read your work forces you to view it more critically. The same can be said when you read another writer's work and put yourself into the critic's mindset. You learn to see strengths and weaknesses in your work and the work of others, and that will only help you improve.
4. You Empathize With Each Other
As I say time and time again, writing and seeking publication hurts sometimes. Non-writers don't always understand that. You love writing so it must be fun, right? You're good at writing so it must be easy, right?
Not always. Sometimes it's the most painful process of my day. Other writers understand that. You can complain about an inspiration slump or joke about all the methods you use to avoid actually writing (*cough* Pinterest *cough*) and suddenly you might feel better. It's nice to know you're not alone.
5. You Share Connections and Knowledge
One person can't know everything or everyone, but when you put a few people together, your pool of knowledge grows considerably. I have learned so much since meeting my writer friends through Twitter. I often find out about contests or pitch events through them, I learn about different organizations and conferences and publications, I discover new methods for editing and querying, and I meet more writers. I try my best to stay in-the-know about the book and writing world, but I am much better off now that I have other sources of knowledge to draw on, and you could be too.
These are only five reasons to befriend writers, but there are many other reasons too. Do not hold yourself back as a writer by turning this journey into a competition. Instead, find the people to ride it out with. Those people might just be the ones that help you to reach your dreams and goals.
Lastly, since it's Follow Friday (#FF), I want to give a shoutout to the writer friends that have recently blessed my life with their support, feedback, and lovely personalities. This shoutout goes to A.J. Eversole (@amjoyeversole), M.J.B. McGregor (@MJBMcGregor), Juliana Xavier (@JulieJubz), Katie Van Amburg (@ktvyay), and Anna Coyle Taylor (@britegrace). Thanks for everything!
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.