While attending a yearly conference of the National Writer’s Association where I was to receive an award, I found myself sitting across the table from a lovely, articulate woman—an attorney hoping to publish her first book.
We were enjoying the final dinner of the four-day conference and listening to the keynote speaker, a well-published author. He spoke on the importance of assistance from other writers through his journey to publication. When he finished, the attorney leaned across the table and told me that she had never come across a kinder, more mutually available group of people. “Everyone had been so anxious to help,” she said. “It has been a wonderful experience.”
“Aren’t attorneys at legal conferences also supportive?” I asked.
She explained that, in her opinion, professionals who attend legal conferences act as if everything is a zero-sum gain. “If one wins, another loses. It can be quite competitive.”
Her statement did not entirely surprise me as I have observed similar situations. I have worked in many environments, owned a business and attended corporate conferences. Outside of my family and personal friends, I feel more welcomed and supported with fellow authors than any other group. Even the most successful authors make themselves available to me with advice as I attempt to reach my goals. I also make myself accessible to others.
After listening to my tablemate’s opinion, I considered my writing groups and their importance. Several things came to mind. First, in critiques, workshops and writing organizations, it’s always about the writing—not the person. Second, when we critique each other’s work, no one comments on the appropriateness of the piece, gives his or her opinion about the content of the work or takes aim at another’s vulnerability. We know that most writers are private people, and publishing is often a terrifying exercise in self-exposure.
When in critique, each of my writing colleagues makes every effort to help the others hone their work; we constantly learn from each other. When one of us finishes a manuscript, gets published or receives some accolade, we all celebrate. In the process, we learn much about each other and bond as friends.
I am lucky to have many supportive personal friends who are not writers. I don’t know what I would do without them as they have shepherded me through tough spots. My life and I are richer because of them.
I also consider myself fortunate because of fellow authors who befriend me and help me on my journey to publication. I recognize my writing friends as essential to the balance between being with others and the considerable alone time that creativity requires. Like in the case of the keynote speaker, I know my work and life are richer because of bonds formed with and help received from other writers.