Writing is a tough pursuit. Not as tough as being a soldier, a nurse, or even a climber, but the job does share some similarities. One of those is the vitality of having a support system.
Throughout the course of my life, I’ve practiced several different creative pursuits. I’ve been a musician, a climbing gym route-setter, digital artist, as well as a writer. I’ve also been active and athletic for most of my life, which I feel is a creative endeavor of sorts. The reason I bring this up is because I feel that in all these activities, a support system was vital for continued growth of my creativity and skill.
Can you create and never share it? If so, why would you decide to? Certainly not everything ever made should be sent around the world, but if you can’t share your creations at some point, your ability will never grow. This is where an honest support system becomes vital.
I’m a good example of this. When I started writing, I kept everything in a plastic file box. (Had to have hard copies in case my ancient hard drive crashed. This was pre-cloud drive days.) I had my whole first novel in there, waiting for… I suppose I was waiting for the day when a publisher would email me to say they wanted to see it. But how would that ever happen? In truth, I was stalling.
As time went on, I became more willing to share and I sent my manuscript out to a few friends, mainly because they asked for it. This was the beginning of my writing support system. As time went on, I began to feel embarrassed that I was sharing something written so long ago. My skills had progressed, my writing had improved. So I did another editing pass of Breakers of the Dawn.
When my girlfriend (now wife) Sarah asked to read it, I felt a little better about it, but was still nervous. When I gave her the digital copy, I said I would appreciate hearing any feedback she had, expecting the standard: “I liked it,” or “It wasn’t for me.” Instead, I got back a printed copy with line-by-line edits. This was the first time anyone had gone to so much trouble for one of my creations. I was blown away.
Ever since that time, Sarah has been my editor. Her feedback has been invaluable for the numerous short stories, novels, and other works I’ve created. We are even co-authoring a how-to on van life. That’s not to say I’ve always been the best when it comes to taking feedback. I can remember a few times early on when I would get defensive about some change or comment and it would turn into an argument. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better about that. Being married to your editor is hazardous! 😉
Since the day when she handed me a very red penned version of my manuscript, I’ve made it a goal to continue cultivating my support system. I have a great group of beta readers who criticize my work and help make it better. Having people willing and eager to help gives me motivation to keep writing.
If I had never been willing to open my metaphorical filing cabinet, no one would have ever seen my work. And if I had never opened my mind to the criticism I once feared, I would have missed valuable feedback that helped make me a better writer.
As I approach the publication of the second book in the Dawn Saga, Harbingers of the Dawn, I look forward to contacting my beta readers. Sarah has already given me back her red penned version and I’m happily making changes and additions. I’m so grateful for all the support I receive.
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