January 19, 2020: It Takes a Village
· Jeff and I celebrated our 41st Anniversary this weekend with a little get-a-way to the beach. As a result, this week’s blog is going to be a re-sharing of an article of mine that appeared in the Florida Writer’s Association Newsletter last year……
I am an introvert. Yes, I love people, love social gatherings, and we entertain frequently. But being an introvert means that in order to recharge my energy, I seek out solitude and quiet; unlike extroverts, who recharge their energy reserves by being surrounded by people and activity. I am also a lone-wolf sort. I would rather work alone than with a group. I was that kid in school who hated group projects. I preferred do it all myself, so I could be in control of every aspect and see my vision realized. I do often work collaboratively in my role as a writer and an educator, but my best thinking and creative work is done alone.
I am guessing many writers are also like me.
The problem is that the saying, It Takes a Village, is the essential truth of quality writing. That reality is not always easy to embrace as an introvert. While much writing is truly a solitary endeavor, as writers, we cannot do it alone. We cannot grow in our skill and craft, and nurture our careers as authors, without a village.
Who is in your village? A village, by its very nature, is made up of a variety of different types of people. People who bring very different skill-sets and talents to our world. While everyone’s village is unique, there are some common villagers that are needed.
- Writer’s Groups
o Whether this is a formal organization that you join, an informal social media group, or just a group of like-minded writer-friends, Writer’s Groups are an important part of our village. They inspire, support, challenge, and stretch us. They are a source of information when we need it, they hold us accountable when necessary, and they push us when we begin to lag.
- Critique Groups
o This is different than the Writer’s Group in that this is a smaller group (perhaps only one person) with whom you share early drafts and listen to their feedback. These are people whose judgement you trust, and who are as committed as you are to making your writing the best it can be. These people may change, depending on the specific writing project, or they may stay the same, regardless of the writing on which you are seeking feedback. But they are honest, hopefully kind, and possess the writing skills themselves that are necessary to critiquing.
o These can be beta-readers who give you feedback on polished, finished drafts, or the readers of your already published works. They are a critical part of your village in that they are the reason you write! They are the audience for your work and they are a central part of the entire writing process. Even if you never meet them, they are the invisible presence hoovering over your thoughts as you plan and draft your writing. Are they understanding the point I am making, we think? Have they felt the emotion I am trying to evoke? They are that audience we envision for our work.
o As writers, when we reach the publication point, these are the critical professionals who will help us navigate the world of publication. Their knowledge is invaluable, their guidance is critical, and their expertise is essential. They give us that dose of reality when our dreams, goals, or expectations are keeping us from approaching our project with a realistic eye. They guide us through the labyrinth that is the world of edits, copyeditors, cover art, marketing, contracts, and more. They are the facilitator that helps establish our relationships with the many professionals involved in birthing a book.
- Other Published Writers
o Our peeps! These are the other writers with whom we share publishing horror stories and success stories; with whom we share leads and ideas; those that we may present with at conferences. These are those in our village who are most like us, even if they are at a different point on the continuum of authors. Some are ahead of us and have reached the best-selling and award-winning status to which we aspire; some are beside us, sharing tables at book signings; and some are behind us, looking to our success for clues and strategies to emulate.
- Family/ non-writer friends
o These are the people who truly have no idea what it means to be a writer, but who are an important part of our village because they keep us grounded. They remind us that the world is a big place and that it does not revolve around our ups and downs as a writer. They fill out our lives and our loves. They keep our life balanced and vibrant.
Once you realize how critical a village is to your success, you must now build your village. This involves that age old business term: NETWORKING. While that may sound overwhelming, here are four quick and easy things you can do to begin to build your village:
- Join at least one formal Writing Association. Yes, this involves membership and fees, but it is an essential business expense for a writer! It will be up to you how active you become in the group, but your membership will provide you with valuable benefits that will only strengthen you as a writer.
- Join at least one informal writing group. Social Media has made this really easy. Again, it will be up to you how you active you become. Will you keep it all virtual and just read others’ posts? Will you use this group to seek out answers to your questions? To share snippets of your writing? Will you use it to hook up with some like-minded writers who live near you and begin to meet for coffee and support?
- Attend Writer’s Conferences. These can be expensive, but like membership in a writer’s association, these are an essential business expense. There are many offerings out there, so be sure to do your research when deciding which conferences to attend. Seek out conferences that are most closely aligned to your writing genre and goals. Is it a romance writers gathering? Sci-fi? Are the sessions focusing on writing craft? Self-publishing tips? Or is it mainly focused on traditional publishing avenues? These will be things to consider as you decide which conferences to attend.
- Check out any book signings or book festivals in your area. This is a great way to meet other writers and other readers. Writers love chatting with other writers and this is a great way for you to meet some of the other local authors in your region. Use this as an opportunity to gather information and data. How are the author’s tables set up? What swag is popular? What kinds of banners and signs are used and seem to be making a difference?
Villages are not created overnight, and they do not stay stagnate. Our villagers, like our village, will grow and change as we grow and change. It will morph as our needs change and as our writing career changes and grows. The important thing is not what the village looks like, but simply to have one.
Yes- It Takes a Village!