Writing can be a very lonely profession.
Even with technology at your fingertips—Twitter, Facebook, writing blogs, Amazon Kindle Boards—it can feel like a lot of “noise,” lacking that tangible connection we crave as creative human beings.
Since I began my writing career around two years ago, I’ve made friends with other readers and writers in Australia, England, all across the United States, and even here in Arizona (I’ll get to that in a bit).
After self-publishing my debut novel in December of last year and going back to a job I only did to pay the bills (be nice to your servers, folks!), I had a major writing slump. After living, breathing and finally publishing my fantasy novel over the course of six months, it was a bit disheartening when the reality of my sales numbers came to pass. I wasn’t getting famous. I wasn’t becoming an Amazon bestseller straight out of the gate.
And I got sad. Depressed. Dejected. Unsure of whether I had done the right thing by self-publishing. Unsure of anything, really. I was also working a lot, and barely had enough time to write—and when I did have time, I didn’t feel like it.
I also pulled back from social media, since it mostly felt like a constant barrage of advertisements or updates about those who were more “successful” than me at writing/getting married/baking cookies/being happy.
I started a novella called “Misery and Marlene,” which was in a style of writing I’d never done before, and quickly scrapped the first 10k words (it is now finished and debuting June 30th, partly due to inspiration I received meeting and talking with other authors).
Back then, I was floundering. But then the opportunity to meet with a few fellow Phoenix authors in person appeared; first was with Joanna Meyer, a newly-agented writer, Marissa Fuller, a longtime friend from Twitter, and finally, Amy K. Nichols, traditionally published and an author invited to Phoenix Comicon 2015 (her debut, “While You Were Here,” is fantastic).
After over two hours of exciting conversation with each of them, I was invigorated. It was exactly the jumpstart I needed for remembering why I am an author, reasons listed below:
1. They know what it’s like to create. Does anyone else in your daily life understand the writing process? (If your answer is yes, then you’re incredibly lucky). It’s a great way to compare processes as well; do they “plot” or “pants?” How many beta-readers do they have? Who’s their editor? (It should be Midnight Publishing, but anyway …) Great way to learn what works for others, and possible new avenues for you.
2. They understand how it feels to have one’s work judged. A good book is from your soul, your heart. It’s personal. The conundrum here is that unfortunately, a bad review can feel like a personal attack—an online troll, even worse. Other writers know what rejection feels like, and can offer moral support and advice on getting past it.
3. Free critique partner! ‘Nuff said.
4. Free marketing! Also ‘nuff said. Okay, a little more can be said; as mentioned earlier, writer friend of mine Marissa and I have a “tribe” on Twitter and other social media; a group of writers who regularly chat online and in person via Google Hangouts to check in with one another, beta-read each other’s work, write book reviews, have as guests on our blogs, etc. Not only is it a great source of friendship (the main reward), but it doesn’t hurt to reach that much larger of an audience for free.
5. Finally, encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough. Meeting with Joanna, Amy and Marissa to discuss their successes and experiences was so enlightening and refreshing, and I found myself itching to do one thing right away: get back to the keyboard and write! It’s a great way time to talk about your books, your works-in-progress, and to remember once again that writing is meant to be enjoyable, a passion.
So how do you meet other writers to schedule face-to-face time with? It can happen a variety of ways—I met Joanna and Marissa through Twitter, and Amy through a mutual reader friend who introduced us. I sent Amy an email stating how I admired her work and would love to take her to lunch and discuss writing any time; thankfully, she agreed! (I was sort of terrified to bother her.)
That’s the thing with us writers though; it can be scary to put ourselves out there, especially regarding another writer we admire.
But I can vouch for how incredibly helpful it is. Also, consider enrolling in a creative writing class at a local community college, scheduling Meet Up groups for critiques, or attending Comicons or conferences to meet others in person. It can change your writing life and be the reinvigoration you need! (It certainly was for me.)
Ashley R. Carlson’s contemporary adult novella, “Misery and Marlene,” will be available on Amazon June 30th. It’s about a girl in Missouri with a Broadway dream, and all the ways life keeps managing to stop her. Will she overcome, or succumb to a boring life in misery?