Over the summer, it’s a bit more difficult. Last year we met one afternoon at the botanical garden, kids in tow, for a picnic. This year has proved to be more sporadic. Susan and I managed a lunch last month. Joan and I met for tea last week. We email constantly and are in the early stages of planning our second annual fall writing retreat.
As a writer I find it imperative to have a support group outside my family. My mother, my sister, my spouse and especially my children see me in a role best suited to their needs. To my family I provide a listening ear, a sympathetic shoulder—emotional support and physical care. If I were to solely depend on those closest to me to provide enthusiastic feedback on my writing or encouragement when I receive yet another rejection letter, my writing would suffer. Family members can tell me how wonderful they think I am, or silently nod while inwardly thinking, Don’t get so worked up over a ‘hobby.’
But Joan, Julie, Kim, Susan and Elizabeth offer me a unique perspective. They know me in a way others do not. They’ve read early, early drafts and offered much-needed feedback. They aren’t afraid to tell me something I’ve written is horrible because they understand they’re doing me no favors by encouraging a project that has no market potential. When I get a rejection letter, at least one has probably queried the same agent with a similar response. Stuck for a way to phrase a sentence, I can email it out and within the hour have two or three unique twists on it. Without the support of these five women, I would not be the writer I am today. I doubt I would have ever attended a writing conference—let alone four. And I’m fairly certain I would have stopped writing fiction after my first manuscript had been rejected by dozens of agents.
Much of this is speculation, but one thing is certain: I am the writer I’ve become because of them. Thanks, all of you!
If you are a writer without a support system, I encourage you to find one soon. I met Joan and Kim at a local writers’ group, Elizabeth at a critique group and Susan at a conference. Check your local library or book store for writing groups or critique groups. Join a book discussion group to get a feel for what readers want. Do an online search. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. But one caveat: Make sure the environment is healthy, positive and honest. The last thing a fragile writer needs is negativity; we provide enough of that to ourselves.