Need some support during the creative process? Feeling a little lonesome whilst you write? Kali Anthony talks about why finding your tribe is so important.
Creativity is most often a solo venture. Sitting alone in your windswept garret—okay, this is my personal fantasy—squirreling away on some grand artwork, or manuscript, or whatever creative endeavour takes your fancy. It’s doesn’t often involve getting together with others to practice your craft. Now, I know on most days the thought of being alone sends me into some kind of rapturous state. But even for those of us with a teensy bit of a social phobia—*raises hand and waves from the peace and safety of my kitchen*—occasionally all that delightful alone time can get a bit—dare I say—lonely?
I work four days a week and that gets me out into public, with make-up on and adulting like a champion. But when I’m writing, it’s an insular state of being. And being with yourself, contemplating your navel because that’s where you mine all the emotion from, can often start those little demons chattering. You know the talk, about how you’re not good enough, you don’t know what you’re doing, your characters are one dimensional, you have no idea about plotting and pacing and your dialogue is wooden. It’s enough for your creative sprout to shrivel under the power of a thousand suns of self-doubt.
When I feel like this, I call on my tribe to help. I have a number of tribes. Friends who are there when I’m feeling low on a personal front, my work tribe of fellow colleagues who talk me through day-job problems, my family tribe—who I’m lucky to say are my greatest champions on all things, and my creative tribe when I’m feeling wobbly about my writing.
And it’s the creative tribe I’m talking about here. Those people who understand when the crazy voices in your head won’t shut up and you need to write them. Who get it when that sick feeling arrives because the voices have stopped. Who know the horror of self-doubt. That kind of tribe isn’t optional, it’s necessary—in my opinion, but feel free to disagree!
Talking about tribes is all well and good, but when you’re starting out it’s hard to know where to look for those people who will keep you going when it all gets too much. So I’m here to help you find a tribe of your own.
Authors and Writers
When I first started writing, I followed a few authors I admired on social media, watching them for a while and then—gasp—talking to them. Honestly, I was terrified. It felt like I was bursting into their house uninvited like a crazy interloper to say, “HELLLOOOOOO!”
What I found once I got past my shyness, was an immensely generous group of people. Now, these were authors I fangirled over quite hard, but in my darkest moments at the beginning of this writing caper, when I had no idea about pace or plot or structure, they were there.
When I’d tweet that I felt like giving up, a response would come from them. People who I thought would have no time to consider little old me and what I was doing.
They’d say, “Yes you can.” Or, “We’ve all been there. Keep writing.”
So I did. I thank each and every one of them, for their time in helping a struggling newbie. Who answered my questions and never once made me feel silly for asking.
My tip to you is to follow authors you admire and have a chat. Listen to what they have to say. Sign up to their blogs. You’ll learn a bunch of things you probably never thought to ask. Because you don't know, what you don't know.
I’ve met other writers through social media too. People I’ve become friendly with, go have coffee with, who I often talk to more than my oldest friends. Some of them I’ve never met, but that doesn’t matter, they support me in my writing and I support them. And these are precious relationships I’ve had now, for years. All from the comfort and safety of my own home. People to call to in the middle of a hard day, who’ll bound in with wise words and support.
Social media groups
Groups on social media which can be open, closed or private, are an awesome way of connecting with like-minded people. It took me a while to realise this, but now I’m an active participant.
The Harlequin Writing Community on Facebook has been a little bolt of light on dark days. But there are many others. You’ll find Nanowrimo Groups, Word Count groups. And of course the PHS Aspiring Authors Group! All full to the brim with people who’ll cheer your successes, and commiserate with your losses.
These groups and the people in them have kept me keeping on, on many a day I’ve felt like giving up. Because most of the time, you begin to realise we’re all feeling the same.
Some people have them, some don’t. I adore the generous writers who beta read for me—likewise, I beta read for them.
Often in the early stages of a story I have little confidence in it. This is when I shoot the first few chapters off to get someone else’s view. It’s great to get the email back after a few days – I love it, I want to keep reading!
It’s not about telling you lies. I want my beta readers to give me home truths. But getting a positive report in the early stages keeps me going when it’s tough to do so.
Beta readers are great when the story’s finished. It’s hard to be objective, when you’ve spent ages writing about your characters. You know them so well, it’s easy to miss plot holes and conflict points. The character may be an open book to you, but to your beta readers, they may be as clear as swamp water. Or even worse, unlikeable.
And that’s happened to me, in a particularly hard fought story with a trope I didn’t like but picked because it would be a challenge—did I say I’m an idiot?—where my beta readers thought the hero was a total jerk and the heroine was a whiny b*itch. Am pretty sure that last one was an quote...
My beloved beta readers were right. So I fixed those problems and now have characters I adore. If this book is published, it is my beta readers who I have to thank.
But how do go about finding a beta reader? For me, I answered a call on social media with one, and was connected with another by an author friend. Sometimes your writing chapter will have a list of people wanting to beta read, and be read for in return.
Your beta readers are your cheer squad and your Jiminy Cricket. I encourage you to find one/some. From the moment mine came into my writing world, I was blessed. Thank you Lea and Louise!
Writing organisations such as the Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America and the Romance Novelists’ Association UK are invaluable for writers, even if you don’t write romance. Because no-one knows pacing and craft, like a romance writer. Trust me.
Join these organisations. Get involved. Go to conferences. Volunteer. Offer to judge competitions.
You'll learn a lot. You’ll meet other writers, editors, publishers. You get to have conversations about publishing and editing, and learn things about this crazy business you’d never have known otherwise.
You’ll get to meet your favourite authors—which is beyond exciting—as well as discover new ones.
Sitting in a room full of people like you, or like the author you are aspiring to be, is good for the soul. When at conference I realise I’m not alone and that most people I talk to, are feeling exactly like me a lot of the time—uncertain some days, about their craft. Yes, even the most experienced and well-loved authors. The vibe of a writing conference is positive and enthusiastic. I never fail to leave a conference energised.
There are my hints about finding your tribe. So don’t be shy. It’s worth getting outside your comfort zone and making connections. You’ll find help, you’ll find solace, you’ll find kindred souls, and hopefully friendships that will last your writing career, or lifetime. And that's worth it!
Kali is a writer of happy endings and failed domestic goddess. She will work for coffee, wine and chocolate! For more information you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Are you a solitary person, or do you need a tribe? Where have you found yours? Let us know here or on social media using the hashtag #TribeTalk We’d love to hear from you.