Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Having a Support System

Because I found stick-figure illustrations, however horrendous my art may be, to be a lot of fun and very beneficial to better explaining my writing posts, I went ahead and used them again.

I have always loved writing.  When I was seven years old, I would write stories and take them to my first grade class to read.  By third grade, I was writing my first "long" story in a notebook.  I was so proud of myself when I had about seventeen handwritten pages full of story.  I was so excited to be telling this awesome tale about kids who lived on a planet made entirely of candy.  I mean, come on.  Twizzler grass!  What nine-year-old could resist?


Never mind worrying about how a lemon drop sun could possibly heat a world.

I had very encouraging people around me.  My first grade teacher welcomed my stories.  My mother was always there with an open ear when I would want to share my stories.  I still remember lessons she taught me--when reading my Candy Planet story to her, she was the one who told me I didn't always have to say "he said, she said, they said, it said," but that I could throw in some variation.  Eighteen years later, this serves me very well. She was the one who helped me study for my spelling tests and got me to remember important grammar rules.


I was a writer from very early on.  Excited about grammar?  Yes.

We didn't have a computer until I was twelve, so up until that point, I would write in my notebooks or on a typewriter.  I constantly had pen smudged on my hand from where I was writing.  My parents would buy pens and if they noticed that I would test each and every one looking for the best "feel" to the pen before taking one, they didn't say anything.

When I hit my teenage years, I had a lot of trouble finishing stories.  I had so many ideas, but I would get bored with them after a while. This was before I learned how to push through the boring parts and commit to a story.  Or my computer would crash and I'd lose everything, and I wouldn't want to start over.  This was before I learned the importance of backing everything up.


My sister and I would plot stories together.  We'd laugh hysterically at some of the ridiculous things we wrote.  And no matter what, my mother would read anything I wrote and tell me how much she loved it and how wonderful it was.  In retrospect, I know it would be terrible compared to what I write today, but maybe it wasn't so bad for being fourteen.  Everyone starts somewhere.  The point is, I was encouraged.  My parents provided me with access to a keyboard, a printer and paper, and never once told me I should be doing something else when I holed up in my room and frantically typed away.


When I was eighteen, I was introduced to the much of the support group I have today.  I married my husband, and about the same time, I joined an online forum for writers.  There was a group of us writers who quickly banded together and would get on AOL Instant Messenger and have huge group chats.  Though we were introduced through writing and the internet, in the nine years since then, many of us have grown our friendship far beyond that.  We call each other.  We've met in person.  Some of us now live in the same city and/or state and have get-togethers, holiday time together, and other events.  This is actually how my co-author, Faith, and I met.

Over the years, I've met other writers, and as a result, I have the most amazing, incredible support system of friends, confidants, and fellow-writers.

First: my husband.  We've been married for almost nine years, and he is my constant support.  He is used to me bursting into random conversation about my plot, what my characters are doing, how I can't figure out this section of the plot, and so on.  He is used to me bouncing around the room, drinking loads of caffeine, leaving my notebooks around, losing my pens, losing my glasses, and losing my mind.  He lets me scribble notes, charts, and graphs and show them all to him so he has an idea of my plot, and then he offers suggestions.  He is used to me being like, "I can't sleep yet!  I have to write!  This scene has to come now or I won't be able to rest!"  Once, I was staring out the window and when he realized I was writing scenes in my head, he nudged me toward the computer and told me to go write.  He makes random sketches of my characters doing ridiculous, out-of-character things and makes me laugh.  He is my biggest supporter.  

Second: my friends.  Many of them are writers, some are not, and all of them are always hearing about my writing progress.  I can call them, email them, post to my LiveJournal (which is where I have my personal journal) and have people willing to help me.  My friends will be honest with me and tell me what isn't working, what I've missed, what they like, what really needs to be fixed.  Some of them are knowledgeable about subjects I don't know, and are always willing to offer their expertise.

Some of them brave my messy, in-progress drafts.  This means things are always subject to change, but it means I have someone who knows the story I'm writing, because they're reading it as I go, so they will let me bounce ideas off of them and they offer suggestions when I'm fumbling.  They make me a better writer, they make me think things through, and they make me excited about what I am doing when I am ready to go for the throw-the-novel-against-the-wall approach. 


Last night, for example, I was battling with my Plot Wall and taking my advice of stepping back and forgetting what I thought I knew of the plot.  But no matter what I was doing, I kept running into dead ends.  I ended up having a conversation with my friend Emma, who is bravely reading every part of my draft as I type it. Through some back-and-forth, something shifted and another character waltzed into my book, and I was a flaily, happy mess because my story once again has direction! And it was all thanks to having an awesomely encouraging friend.

Maybe some authors do better being locked up in a room alone somewhere, without ever talking to anyone.  I'm sure there are authors who have not had any support from family and friends and became amazing writers.  But I know that for me, without the help, support, encouragement, and love of so many people throughout my life, I would not be the writer I am today.   If I had one piece of advice to offer a fellow writer, it would be to find at least one person in their life who can help and support them through their writing.  It's such a wonderful, precious thing, and I'm so thankful to my family and my friends.  It is a huge blessing to me to have people who are willing to ping-pong ideas with me and who help me make my writing better.


  1. *dies laughing*

    (I'm the third stick figure, right?) ;)


  2. @Emily Kate Johnston


    (Yes, you are. :D I went with some of my most recent experiences--or exaggerations of them. I'll be forever laughing about poor Alphonse and his girl troubles.)

    :D Thanks!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!