Writing is considered a solitary activity — the term ‘writer’ always brings forth images of introverted geniuses in their messy offices, with a typewriter as their only friend. But those images are nothing but a snapshot of the creative process.
The truth is, every word we write has been influenced, motivated or touched by another human being. From the family that instilled your values, to the teacher that loved your first-grade story, to the friends that encouraged you, the craft books that molded your voice, the first fan letter you received, the last book you read by your favorite author, writing is a deeply connected calling. We don’t write in isolation. Without the connection of others there would be no reason to write, and our imagination would shrivel up and die. The truth is our creativity is a product of community.
And so is your writing success.
That’s why building your tribe is so central to your writing success. I call it your ‘success team,’ and they happen when deep connections are built, connections that will last and benefit everyone involved. I believe we build these when we honour the law of reciprocity.
The law of reciprocity is fancy terminology social psychologists came up with for ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ It basically predicts that if we initiate a kind or helpful gesture to someone, they will respond with a positive action in return. It happens in everyday life all the time — let me ask you this; how many of you have sent a Christmas card to a distant relative just because one arrived in the mail for you? These positive exchanges are how society was built; ‘hey Ugg, if you stay here and guard the cave, I’ll go out and get us some mastodon for dinner.’
And it’s how you will build your success team. Here’s five ways you can honour the law of reciprocity, five ways that will build a solid foundation to your success team.
If you’ve been writing for more than an hour, then you’ve likely discovered that writing is hard. Even the most passionate, driven writers have moments when they want to toss down the pen, throw up their arms, and wail ‘I give up.’ That’s when you need someone else to say ‘keep going, I believe in you.’ Provide encouragement and watch your writer friend grow tall, and the foundations of your success team strengthen.
2) Positive Feedback
We all need to know what we’re doing well. As a general rule, we have an inkling of what we’ve managed to nail, but hearing it from another person is extremely validating. And validation translates to confidence and faith—two essential ingredients to getting words on the page. Humans also tend to underestimate themselves. That means that pointing out what they’ve done well can come as a total surprise, and I’m going to be honest, that’s a pretty cool feeling. I recommend gifting this feeling to your fellow writers, and gifting it often.
3) Constructive Feedback
Now this is a tricky one. Every writer needs someone to give them an objective perspective on what they’ve missed or could do better—it’s why editors are a key component of a strong story. But writers’ egos are fragile. Your capacity to provide constructive feedback: feedback that builds them up and lets them know you are on their side, will be invaluable to your writer friends.
4) Introduce New Perspectives
When it comes to plotting, character development, the dreaded marketing, we don’t know it all. Many minds allow us to discover alternative ways to look at things. When you provide gentle suggestions, you create the capacity for ‘hey, I hadn’t thought of that!’ moments, and every writer needs that in their life.
5) Share Successes
Most writers are introverts, many of us wondering if we really have what it takes to sweep readers straight out of reality (if you’re like me and unlucky, you get to have both). Having others talk, share and shout our strengths and successes is an amazing feeling. It’s validating. It’s encouraging. It’s builds faith. So talk to others about their successes, review their books, share their posts on social media.
If you do these for others, founded on a genuine desire to help and give, you’ll be surprised what our innate desire to connect and build relationships will gift you. You’ll have a success team, one that gives as much as you do.
What do you think? Have you built a solid success team, and how? Or have you had someone take the time to do any of these for you? I’d love to hear from you, so make sure you leave a comment!
Tamar Sloan’s writing is born of a passion to pay-it-forward. As a practicing psychologist, psychological theories and strategies infuse her drive to help others. Tamar is a freelance editor, consultant and the author of PsychWriter – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers, and the author of the best-selling Grit for Writers. She is also a multi award-winning author of young adult romance, creating stories about finding life and love beyond our comfort zones. You can check out Tamar’s books at her website.