In the 1991 comedy What about Bob?, a psychiatrist tries to help his neurotic patient overcome an elevator phobia by coaching him to take baby steps to the elevator. While many found this application of the baby steps principle hilarious in the movie, accomplishing something in an incremental fashion can be quite useful.
Overcoming fear and even phobia when undertaking tasks that involve public exposure can be daunting to some individuals, and writing is no exception. Writers, who are often introverts by nature, want their words to be read but may fear baring their souls by putting their thoughts on display or subjecting their work to criticism and critique. Even writers as famous as Stephen King refer to the terrors of literary review. As I’ve walked this writing path, I’ve found the encouragement of others to be integral to my process. Recently, one of my short stories, “Hay Hook,” was selected for publication in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology, Crossing Colfax, a collection of eclectic stories that have one thing in common—Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado, a street that Playboy Magazine once called “the longest, wickedest street in America.” After celebrating, I reflected on the many steps it took to reach this goal and the gratitude I feel toward the wonderful people who provided support along the way.
I decided to put together a brief list of supports that I’ve found helpful for my writer’s journey and turn it into a guideline for anyone who may be interested. It’s by no means inclusive of everything, but is a summary of the major points.
Find your fans. We all need those people who believe in us and who believe in our success. So whether it’s through family, friends, or other professionals, seek out these people and allow them to nurture you during the hard times. I remember a time in the early days when I was seeking representation from a literary agent. In those days, we were instructed to write a query letter and send it by postal mail with an enclosed self-addressed-stamped-envelope. Eagerly, I watched my mailbox for those SASEs to return. Most agents use polite form letters to tell you they’ve rejected your work, but one agent returned my query letter with NO scrawled across it. And yes, I had done my homework and knew that the agent represented work in my genre. Being rather thin skinned, I took this type of rejection hard, but my husband just laughed and said the agent must’ve been having a bad day. It’s such a release, sharing laughter with someone over the little setbacks.
Find a critique group or critique partner. Even though supportive family members and friends are invaluable, they are not always the best people to help you improve your work. Find people who understand the nuts and bolts of writing and who are willing to pick apart every sentence, paragraph, and page you submit to them for critique. You can find them through local writing classes, organizations or conferences, or online. Due to the terminal illness of a beloved family member, the first half of 2014 was a particularly hard time for me to keep up with my writing practice, and the call for submission to the RMFW anthology escaped my notice. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of one of my critique group members to consider revision of a story I’d been working on, I would have missed the opportunity entirely. He and I each quickly completed our separate stories, submitted to our group for critique, made revisions, and ended up with both of our stories selected for publication. (See Crossing Colfax, “The Case of the Woman Who Sewed Her Silence” by BK Winstead.)
Find your tribe. I can’t tell you how critical it is to belong to local or regional writers’ organizations. For me, connecting with other writers through my two organizations, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Pikes Peak Writers, has brought an endless source of information, education, and support. These types of organizations usually offer contests and other opportunities for feedback, critique, and awards or publication. On top of that, I come home from annual conferences feeling renewed and inspired, and have found friends and critique partners among the group members.
Find professional support. This last step may not be necessary for everyone, but for me, gaining the acceptance and support of my literary agent, Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management, gave me the confidence I needed to carry on. She works tirelessly for her clients and considers us all family; she boosts me up when I have doubts. Other professionals who may provide writing support include writing coaches, teachers who offer community classes through universities, colleges, and city recreational programs, and free-lance editors. Again, this is not an all-inclusive list; see what you can find in your locale.
By all means, the most important thing for a writer to do is to write. Until you sit down with pen to paper or fingers on keyboard, none of these other things matter. Many years ago, when I was about to undertake a new business venture, a friend gave me an inspirational quote that I’ve treasured ever since: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Time to sit down and map out those baby steps.
I can be found on Facebook, Linked In, and on Twitter @margmizu
Margaret would love to hear from you! Your comments are also welcome on Gilda’s Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/girltalkwithgilda or send them to her on twitter at https://twitter.com/gildaevans, @gildaevans.
Your “likes” and follows are welcome!
Guest posts are the opinion of that author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Gilda Evans or others posted here.