Writing may be an individual sport, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your own team to weather the industry
Writing is a solitary business. If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that adage before. Writing is, simply by nature of the craft, something most of us actually do alone. I recently was watching an interview on YouTube where this very thing was briefly mentioned, and how collaboration can not only make the business less lonely, but also build multiple income streams. This interview got me thinking about why we make writing into such a lonely business, and how we can change that.
The funny thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever personally considered writing a lonely business. There are probably many reasons for this, but the most prominent one that stands out to me as I’ve been mulling over this idea is the fact that I’ve built up my own little writing community over the years. No, it’s not a big community by any means, but it’s a strong one. That community has stuck with me as I’ve tried various forms of writing, been rejected way too many times, written a full-length novel manuscript, and started a literary journal. Was the writing itself actually done in solitude? Most of the time it was, but that doesn’t mean the business of writing needs to be a lonely one. Here’s how you can make writing a less lonely business:
1. Don’t be afraid to initially reach out
I need to take my own advice when it comes to this one, for sure! I’m not always the best at reaching out, especially to someone I don’t know that well, but I’m learning that sometimes the best experiences come out of putting yourself out on a limb. I’ve been on the reciprocating side of this — one of my best writing friends came to that status by persistently reaching out to me about writing events and ideas she had until it became a mutually beneficial friendship — and I’m also learning to be the one doing the reaching out. I’ve met so many interesting people by emailing them to be on borrowed solace: the podcast, or having the courage to go up to them and start a conversation at writing conferences (pre-COVID, obviously.) Sometimes having the courage to reach out is just the thing needed to make a new writing friend.
2. Keep in touch
After initially reaching out, keep doing it! Writing becomes less lonely when we find people to stick with us — our own writing clique, in a way (but please be nice and let others in.) You have to establish an open line of communication with fellow writers, editors, and readers in your life. Be there when your friend who’s trying to tie up the loose ends of her novel needs to brainstorm with another brain. Answer the call when your friend rings to chat about the latest writing article she read that rubbed her the wrong way. And don’t be afraid to keep in touch in your own way — get help with that paragraph that just…doesn’t sound right. Send a text when you’re in need of some encouragement after a tough writing day.
3. Collaborate on everything you can
This is a key point — collaboration in your writing can jumpstart creativity as well as strengthen writing relationships. Collaborating in and of itself makes writing less lonely — it’s one of the only ways writing can be less solitary. It can be hard to figure out the scope of collaboration, but there are so many options out there. You can collaborate on a short piece of fiction or a poem with a friend. You can start a literary journal with a few friends like I did. You could even write an entire novel with a writing friend. The possibilities are endless, and a surefire way to make writing a bit less lonely.
4. Share in wins and losses
This one can be both amazing, and extraordinarily difficult. When you develop your own writing community, it becomes inevitable that you’ll be there for both the lows and highs of each person within that community. Some of you might struggle with being rejected from magazine after magazine. Some of you might submit to the same contest and have different outcomes. Some of you might publish a novel, while some might go the freelance writing route. Everyone’s writing path, and personal story, is different, so making it less lonely involves being there for your community’s good developments, and bad, as well as sharing your own. A strong community will celebrate with you and mourn with you, and the act of sharing these things will only fortify your circle of writing friends.
5. Share advice
The writing friends you make and the people you encounter on your writing endeavors throughout the years are all experts in one way or another. Sometimes you might be experts on the same things, and that can definitely make for interesting conversations. But sometimes you are (or become) experts in different realms, and that’s where sharing advice, stories, and tips can be invaluable. As I write this, I am listening to my two closest writing friends talk about how video games have influenced their writing for an upcoming podcast episode. I know nothing about video games, but I’m learning so much hearing them chat about the different video games that have inspired them over their years of experience playing.
Writing is, by nature, a solitary business, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept the loneliness. There are so many writers out there just like you — looking to develop their own writing circle. Don’t be afraid to seek out your own group. Typing away at a computer (like I am doing right this second) is something done by one’s self, but that doesn’t mean a life full of writing needs to be a lonely one.