I ended my whiny, oh woe is me post yesterday lamenting that I will probably never have Important Knowledge to Impart to writers. Guess what? I was wrong. I do have Important Knowledge to Impart. It's this: Have someone.
There's a lot of writing advice swirling around the internet. Some of it is good, some of it is crap, some of it is brilliant. What's good, crap and brilliant will be different for every person. Weird, huh? But, as my Someone, Mark, said today, that's what makes writing art. There are as many ways to get to the final draft as there are writers. My way isn't better than yours, or vice versa. They're just different.
I do believe there are two hard and fast rules of writing; you have to write a lot and read a lot. Those are such no brainers I shouldn't have to explain them, so I won't. If they aren't self-explanatory, read Stephen King's On Writing.
I think Having Someone is a third hard and fast rule. Why? Well, because we writers are an angsty, navel gazing lot. And, we spiral. Because we spend so much time inside our head sometimes we just don't know how to get out of that snow covered maze where a crazy man with an ax is following us chanting "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's imperative we have someone we trust to pull us out of the land where confidence goes to die: our mind.
Mark is my writing mentor and my cousin. He's done more than anyone to help me develop as a writer. It isn't hyperbole to say I wouldn't be where I am today without his encouragement, hand holding, brainstorming, bullshitting and ass kicking. This morning, within five minutes of me sitting down, spilling my Charlie Brown sob story into his ears - I have no doubt I sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah" - he pointed at #2 of my list of five things I must include in this book and said, "This is your book. All that other stuff? It goes on around it but it isn't what it's about."
One bad thing about Having Someone, when what they tell you is so obvious you feel a bit like an idiot.
Fortunately, I'm very familiar with that feeling so I was over it by the time I left Starbucks.
Having Someone isn't the same as joining a writer's group. I'm a big fan of writer's groups. I'm a member of two and get invaluable information from both. But, writer's groups aren't brainstorming sessions and they aren't designed for you to talk about yourself and all of your Writing Issues. It's where you go once you've gotten past the issues, put something on paper and want objective, constructive criticism. I've read three times at DFW Writer's Workshop and gotten blasted twice. But, I kept my mouth shut, listened and developed another layer of elephant hide, which is crucial for being a successful writer. (If you can't take constructive criticism, you need to find another vocation.) I learn something every time I go, whether I give or receive critiques.
Who is this Someone? Well, they aren't a cheerleader. Nor are they a yes, woman. If you want someone to stroke your ego and tell you how awesome you are, talk to your parents or spouse or best friend or toddler (hopefully they are your biggest fans). Sure, some parents can be encouraging and critical in equal parts, but many are too Rah-Rah to be truly effective as your Someone.
It helps if your Someone is a writer. Let's face it, non-writers don't really get us, do they? Civilians are either a little in awe of what we do or think we're crazy spending so much time on something that doesn't generate money and that might not, realistically, ever get published. Only another writer can grasp what you're going through.
But, I don't know anyone like that! How do I meet this mythical Someone?
Joining a writer's group is a good place to start. Network. Get to know other writers. Don't jump in the first time you show up and ask a virtual stranger to be your Someone. They'll think you're creepy and a restraining order might just follow. Patience, Young Skywalker.
There are writer's forums all over the internet. Join one, participate, reach out after you've developed relationships. Hopefully, the connection will happen organically and you'll be in the middle before you realized you started. Kinda like how Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth.
Be appreciative and open and hopefully, one day, you will be able to pay it forward by being a young writer's Someone.