Writer’s Support

It’s amazing how far a little encouragement will take a writer. This is the reason each writer desperately needs a support base of readers who are in love with their writing. Among these readers we look most eagerly for those who interact with our work.

I have published blogs and a few articles and short stories and am working on a book. It is so encouraging when people respond to something I have written. At a conference I attended there was a new emphasis on writers establishing an email mailing list of readers. You share your latest writing accomplishments with your readers and they in turn tell you how your writing impacted them.

At this stage I have not yet joined a writer’s group and I hear this is really the best way to connect directly with a group of supportive people during the actual writing process. I suppose the fact that I have not sought out and joined a group says something about my personality. Like most writers, I am afraid to show my work to others and to have it critiqued.

I have become braver lately and on occasion even dared to read some of my work to family and friends and listen to their critique. Painful as it is, a good critique can be a writer’s best friend. Critiques have moved my writing forward. In their own way, critiques are a show of support.

Recently I wrote four songs. Yes, I am a song writer too. One of the songs is intensely personal. I have yet to determine whether it is art or merely “raw reportage flung splat on the page,” as Mary Karr describes inferior writing in Art of Memoir. But, I take courage in the fact that even raw reportage is a start. And listening to lyrics on the radio today, one wonders if art is a requirement at all to get a record label.

Time and distance often help to tell if the writing is good. When I go back to my writing and find it moves me this is a good sign. If it moves others, that is even better.

One has to be careful with critiques. When a writer’s art is in the embryo stage it needs to be protected from harsh judgment. When it is polished, it is time to share it. A writer must have some level of confidence in his or her work or it may never see the light of publication day.

Kate Bond wrote eight novels and basically never showed them to anybody before she recently won a contest for a screen play. This is an example of how timid writers can be and that is why we need support. Bond submitted her play in an effort to get over her fear. She says, “I think it was this idea that it was a low-stakes way to send a piece of writing out into the world; that some stranger, some third party will read it and it will help kind of alleviate this great phobia I have of showing anything to anybody.”

I started this blog in a really good season when blogs were a new thing. Now we are literally flooded with millions upon millions of blogs and sorting through them can be fatiguing, if not overwhelming. Recently I came across one that I find particularly worth reading, Brain Pickings by Maria Pavova. This lady does much more than “splat on a page.” Pavova says she puts hundreds of hours a month and thousands of dollars into her blog yet the only advertising on her site is in the form of links to books on Amazon of which she gets a small percentage of the sale if people buy them.

When people love our work, they praise it and better yet, agents publish it and readers buy it. Bloggers don’t have the advantage of publishers to promote their work and they don’t get a percentage of sales. As an alternative to posting random ads, Maria Pavova respectfully requests financial support from her readers. I hope people consider donating to her. But for starters, simple praise is what most of us need to be inspired to move ahead and that only costs a few minutes of intellectual investment.

In the writing world it is essential to build relationships and learn how to support and promote one another. I have made many great connections by attending writers’ conferences and find it takes an effort to move to the next level where you really benefit from each other’s skill set.

I am interested in knowing how others have built a support base. Who do you show your writing to? At what point do you show your writing to someone? Have you found the perfect mix of support and critique in a person with whom you have shared your writing? Have you had a shocking experience when you shared your work? Are there online sites you recommend for sharing writing? Have you found a creative way to share your not yet perfect drafts?

If any of my writer readers would like to share their work with me, I will give you a gentle critique and I promise some encouragement too. You may email me at friesentina@gmail.com. Send a Word document as an attachment, please. It can be a blog article, song lyrics or poetry, short story, or up to ten pages of a novel, double-spaced. Write a little about why you wrote the piece. I will respond to the first five scripts I receive.

Please like me. Please follow me.

Last week I took Gretchen Rubin’s  Quiz: Do You Make Other People Happy? | LinkedIn. For those of you who don’t want to go to her site, here is the quiz:

  • Do people seem to feel comfortable confiding in you?
  • Do people seem to drift toward you? Join a conversation that you’re having, sit down next to you at a meeting?
  • Do people whom you hardly remember go out of their way to greet you warmly? Say, the friend of your old roommate, or a former co-worker?
  • Do people seem to want to connect with you — by making plans or by emailing, calling, or texting?
  • Do people seem energized by you? Do they smile and laugh in your presence?

Mixed in with the above questions she has the following:

  • Do people follow your recommendations?
  • Are you a source of material comfort or security for someone else?
  • Do people whom you’ve introduced often go on to have a continuing relationship?
  • Have you recently been involved in the improvement or growth of an organization, group, or process that involves many other people?
  • Are you providing opportunities for other people – job leads, blind dates, contacts in a new city?

Notice the difference between the two? The first group is about how people respond to you, while the second is about contributions you have made. Perhaps by combining the two Rubin was trying to show that people will be attracted to you if they perceive you are making a positive contribution.

As writers we will be regarded for our contribution. Whether or not we have a magnetic personality may make little difference in book sales if our book or blog is loved by its audience.

However, I have noticed that people who are open and engaging do tend to have more “follows” and “likes” on their blogs. Of course this does not mean that those without this level of recognition are less attractive or personable. Perhaps they have not been discovered.

There is a lot to learn about the art of blogging. Recently I have discovered a strategy for gaining popularity that has less to do with one’s contribution as a writer or having a likeable personality, and more to do with effective marketing. Those who take time to consistently “like” and “follow” others, tend to reap the rewards of their labour in gaining followers themselves. While nobody is forcing anybody to follow them, there seems to be a sort of unspoken expectation to reciprocate the compliment.

I love to spend time reading the blogs of others and find that if I am not careful my writing will be neglected in favour of reading. Reading what others are writing is important in order to keep up with information, to learn to write better, and, I believe, also to support other writers.

In the blogging world, however, I have begun to wonder if  “follows” and “likes” are beginning to be distributed like business cards. I spoke with an author at a writers conference who told me she drops most of the cards she collects in the garbage before she leaves, along with all the others that are trashed. How sincere are we in our “likes” and “follows?”

Like everyone else out there, I am saying, “pick me, pick me.” Please like me, please follow me. And if you are just “liking” me or “following” me to direct me to your site that’s OK. It will give me the pleasure of meeting you. Who knows, I might even “like” and “follow” you back.

Finding focus

In recent weeks I have had an obsession with getting my house organized. I feel I need to do this so that I can focus. This has extended to cleaning up my blogs as well.

I can relate to the article, Lifestyles of the (semi)Disconnected by Angela Parker on her site, theunconventionalhousewife.com. To de-stress, Angela cut social media from her life. She now finds time to read books, hang out with family and pursue artistic activities.

I have not been as ruthless or radical as Angela in terms of eliminating all of my social networks. Some months ago I discontinued LinkedIn because of spam mail I was getting. As far as Twitter goes, I saw from the beginning that it would be a constant distraction so I dropped out. Pinterest looked like it could be very consuming so I never subscribed.

But I am still connected to Facebook. I have a lot of friends and family that don’t live nearby and with whom I value  making occasional contact on Facebook. I admit that I have to sift through a lot of chaff for the wheat, so to speak, but so far it is worth it for me.

Today, in my effort to become more focused, I deleted three of my websites. One was a collection of interesting trivia, another, a photography site, and the third , a place where I wrote the occasional article. It was a little painful, the letting go part, but I feel it is necessary.

I compare my life with a smorgasbord where there are numerous items to sample. For years I have enjoyed the selection but currently I am driven to simplify and define what it is I value.

How does a person go from smorgasbord to specialty? It almost seems like my brain isn’t wired that way. Yet the possibility is beginning to capture my imagination.