There is an African saying that says, “It takes a village to raise a child”, meaning that raising a child is a collective effort. It is not that different when it comes to writing a book. When you publish traditionally, there is a whole chain of people involved to help you along the way. Indie authors don’t have that luxury. There are many advantages of belonging to a professional writer’s organization. Yet, for me, I’ve found informal groups the most beneficial.
Writers feels protective over their “baby” and carefully nurture their handiwork from start to finish. They hesitate before pressing that “send” button and anxiously wait on feedback from beta readers or editors. Will others like their “baby” and what criticism will they offer?
But, long before you send out your “child” into the world, it is helpful to have some “aunties and uncles” who will encourage you, the writer, during the creative process.
Of course, the ultimate responsibility of creating and raising your “child” lies with you. No-one else can do it for you (I’m not talking about collaborations). Which is why we know that writing a novel or non-fiction book is usually a very solitary pursuit.
But it helps to have someone who knows and understands (this is key) what you are going through. Someone who can listen, offer input or advice, or simply spur you on, urging you not to give up on your dream.
Often, the “aunty or uncle” is a fellow writer, because they, unlike close family or friends, understand and can relate to your feelings of confusion, frustration and despair.
During the early part of my writing journey, I felt so alone on many occasions. I didn’t have contact with other writers, and at times, it was extremely discouraging. Then I discovered the National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), and a vast number of “aunties and uncles” from around the world. They cared about my “baby” because they were raising their own. I met a few kindred spirits in virtual camps and discovered other writers in my own city. Finally, I was able to connect and commune with other “parents”. I’ve kept in touch with those I met in virtual space, through various social media platforms. And, after months of chatting on social media and making video calls, I finally met a woman who writes in the same genre as I, in person. She lives in another city, and I had to take a train to get there. When we finally met face-to-face, it felt like meeting up with an old friend.
Recently, I once again came to appreciate the input of another writer. I needed to relook the motivation of one of my main characters. After a week of being stuck in the same place, I picked up the phone in desperation. After a five minute conversation, I knew exactly what I needed to do. All she did was to make one simple suggestion. I had spent a week going around in circles and reached a state of despair. One small suggestion, in a short conversation, did the trick, and my writing started flowing again.
The level of contact with other writers is entirely up to you. Very few writers enjoy constant contact, and most love their own company during the writing process. But it is nice to know that you can have a support system while you raise your “baby”.
There is power in being part of a community of writers.
Are you part of a writing community and have you found your own tribe yet?