Writers need to find their tribe, and many times that’s other writers. It’s the natural fit. It makes sense. Finding the right mix of people will add more depth and potential to your writing journey. Sometimes it takes a village. Your job is to find the right village, and if you can’t find it, create it.
1) Someone to bounce ideas off of
Some people are just better at bouncing ideas off of than others. They’re insanely creative, and let ideas roll into beautiful creatures that surpass your own vision. But the best part is when they tell you your ideas don’t work. Then you can shelve them, build on them, or get rid of them and start fresh. Plus, it’s fun to go hog wild with someone who has a beautiful imagination that helps strengthen your own.
My person: A former coworker at a home décor company. You never know where you’ll find the right one, but you’ll know as soon as you do.
2) Someone who knows your story
Having someone who is great at coming up with fresh ideas is essential, but you also need someone who knows your story well enough that they can help fill plot holes. You need someone whose ideas work within the world you’ve created. They need to understand your characters and their motivations. And they need to intimately know how everything connects and builds. That’s when fun brainstorming leads to productive writing.
My person: I found mine in my writing group. I talked with her about a plot issue, and she helped me solve it right then and there. Now I know who to turn to when my story is polka dotted with plot issues.
3) An honest beta reader
When I say honest, I mean brutally honest. So honest that you might wonder why you let this monster near your work. But when you put down your defenses, you realize they’re onto something. If something in your story doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We can convince ourselves that it’s fine and it doesn’t need a revision, but deep down, we already know it does. An honest beta reader will help you accept the fact that it needs more work. It’s painful, sure, but your work will be better in the end. If you need raw, unfiltered feedback, this is your person.
Your beta reader also needs to be as excited about it as you are. They want the plot holes gone so they can better enjoy the awesomeness you’ve created. It’s a hard balance to find in a person, but when you do, it’s magic.
My person: My dad. I often hear feedback like “That’s cheesy” or “I don’t remember the ending now, but I know I hated it.” He’s brutally honest, but he loves that I’ve created something. There’s beauty in that.
4) A writing group, or three
Many writers are solitary creatures. It can be difficult to join a critique group because it’s exposing. You’re vulnerable, but you’ll also be a stronger writer. So, go join one…or three. Mix it up with different personalities and types of writers. Get a well-rounded array of critique partners. Branch out and find the right fit.
If you write it, they will come.
My people: After joining a writing association, I attended a local chapter for monthly critiques. From people I met there, I joined two smaller groups.
5) Someone who doesn’t get it but supports you anyway
There are important people in our lives who just don’t get the whole writing thing. Their eyes glaze over when we rant or geek out. It’s not hard to find people like that in the world, but the trick is finding someone who supports you wholeheartedly anyway. They’re willing to let you jabber on about it, even if they don’t understand the love.
That also means they don’t understand the beauty of the little wins, like getting feedback from an agent you queried. And they don’t understand the lows of writerly disappointment, like getting feedback from an agent you queried. It doesn’t matter. Find the person who is excited about things they aren’t passionate about because you love writing and they love you.
My person: My husband. He’s the one person I feel okay about trapping in a proverbial corner so I can dive into all my thoughts on publishing. He’ll smile and nod at appropriate times for good news. For bad news, his usual response is, “Just keep going” instead of wallowing in self-pity with me. It’s a good balance.
BONUS PERSON: Someone who inspires you
There are so many talented and hardworking writers out there. When I see someone getting a publishing contract or finding success with indie publishing, I’m inspired. When I see someone I know get an article published, I’m inspired. When I see a non-writer follow their passions, I’m inspired. Celebrating the success of others supports them while fueling your own fires. We are all in the trenches together.
My people: I don’t have just one person who inspires me. Throughout my writing journey, I’ve met countless inspiring people, including those I met during my graduate studies and even a former coworker who quit her job to live her dream of baking gorgeous sugar cookies.
If you haven’t found your tribe yet, keep going. You will. Discovering the right people makes all the difference. Or think of it this way: you might be part of someone else’s essential tribe and you don’t even know it.
Charlene Jimenez is an adjunct writing professor for two colleges, a freelance writer, and a mother to twin toddlers. When she’s not writing, she’s reading about it, thinking about it, talking about it, and waiting to write again. And when she’s not doing any of that, she’s trying to squeeze in a nap, because, gosh, darn it, she’s happily exhausted. Find her on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.