Writers talk all the time about the importance of having a network of other writers to share the journey. Unlike other professions, this one has some oddities that people on the outside don’t readily understand. It helps to have a support system to share resources with, learn from, and encourage us... and vice versa.
Honestly, trying to explain what you’re doing to non-writers is a challenge. You have some major milestone, like getting a full request, or *choir of angels sing* landing that perfect agent who believes in your work. Telling your writer friends means there’s someone to share the excitement and joy. Telling your non-writer friends means a blank stare or worse, a placating smile. Saying things like, “I finished my novel!” is greeted with something like, “Oh, that’s nice. When will it be published?” Which kind of makes you forget you accomplished anything. And frankly, this is a rough business. We owe it to ourselves to be able to bask in the accomplishments along the way, even if they’re not the ones that end in a paycheck.
I think this is why so many writers hide what they do. They don’t tell people in their everyday about their writing, because they’re so often subjected to incredulity. It’s hard to keep going when everyone around you thinks you’re delusional. So, we wait until there’s some major milestone. If we make the mistake of telling people our work is out on submission or *yay* full requests, we then have to tell them, “No, umn, didn’t find a publisher yet” weak smile, every time we run into them... If we tell them we found an agent, they don’t get the significance.... thinking of an agent like a real estate agent you’d hire out of a phone book and not realizing how hard it is to actually get to that point.
Publishing has its own rules. Even writers have a hard time learning them all and it takes a long time of study, trial and error before finally getting over some of the mistakes that scream, “Amateur!!!” Lately there’s been a lot of talk of all the queries bombarding agents and editors. The general consensus is that there are a lot of people recently unemployed and they’re trying their hand at writing. I think there was an immediate urge to say, WTF, do you really think it’s that easy? At least for me... but then I thought, well, damn, go for it. They’ll either learn about their craft and the business, or they’ll get frustrated and stop trying... but the fact that they just now got time to try it in earnest doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not real writers. You have to pay bills. I wonder how many have been writing in their spare time, hiding it from friends and colleagues for the same reason we all hate discussing it with non-writers.
So I say, welcome to the fold. Maybe someone out there is destined to be the next great voice of our time... but they never would have spoken if not for a stroke of bad luck and a worse economy.
How about you guys? What do you think of the influx of new writers? Any stories about your own writing and how your non-writing friends react to it?