Why Writer Friends Are Crucial
by Kristen Hubbard
The journey to publication is full of surprises. We’ve all heard that, and yet, the surprises continue to surprise us; to conjure up emotions we’ve never felt before, unfamiliar and unexpected. The highs and lows are both higher and lower than we ever imagine. Wild, crazy soaring-all-around-the-room highs! And lows that are almost existential in their crappiness.
Unfortunately, most writers have experienced such lows – bad reviews, publisher rejections, agent rejections, manuscripts you need to shelf. Even if you haven’t queried yet, just writing the darn book in the first place can result in total exhilaration and utter despair.
In early 2009, I was agentless and aspiring, waist-deep in Like Mandarin revisions. Two years later, I am a month past publication – the other end of a long, long journey with mountain peaks and beautiful views, but also potholes and pits and sometimes dragons in the pits. It’s a relief to be here, but I have to admit, it hasn’t gotten easier. Just busier. And in some ways, harder.
At the writing stage, and the querying stage, there are tons and tons of wonderful blogs and websites (like this one!) for assistance, research, commiseration. They help smooth the rough patches of the early journey. Just knowing plenty of others share your boat is invaluable.
But then, once you’re agented – and especially, once you’ve sold – there’s a sense you’re not allowed to complain any more. On sub to editors for months, or years? At least you’re agented! Your agent or editor passes on your second book? At least you’re sold! Scathing review? Barnes and Noble isn’t going to stock you? Didn’t sell out your advance? At least you’re published!
The thing is, those setbacks don’t hurt any less just because you’ve conquered an earlier obstacle. The further I’ve traveled in this career, the more I realize how much other writers and authors are keeping inside – fearing coming off as ungrateful, or negative, or a complainer.
It makes me want to hug everybody.
This isn’t to say writers should broadcast all their woes, from the first page to their tenth book published. On the internet, writers and authors all walk the necessary balance between honesty and professionalism, venting and inspiring. However, I have to admit: nothing made me feel better when faced with specific setbacks than honesty from other authors who’d experienced the same things.
This is why writer friends are crucial.
Writers at the same stage as you – querying or on submission, recently sold or just debuted. But also writers who are a little further along, who’ve been where you’ve been and lived to talk about it. And newer writers too, because mentorship should go both ways.
Being an author is the most awesome career in the whole wide world. It is the only career I would ever want (well, except maybe baby sloth rehabilitation). But it can also be pretty lonely, especially on bad days. We’re all entitled to wallow, and watch 30 Rock reruns instead of write, and maybe even Tweet something cryptic as a last resort. But nothing helps like knowing other authors have had bad days too; and that if we’re all understanding, we can be there to lift each other up – at every stage of the game.