Be a writing angel, not a demon

Writers have plenty of demons. They constantly battle the demon of self-doubt. At night they try not to listen to the demon of unfinished projects. Sitting at their computer they try to ignore the more prosaic demon of social media. There are many voices whispering in a writer’s head, sabotaging their efforts. Niggling away at them. They honestly don’t need more. What they need are writing angels, voices that will lift them up and encourage them. With this post I’m hoping to convince you to be an angel to other writers, not a demon.

Writers can be exceptionally good at empathy – you have to be to put yourself into the heart and mind of any character that you create. Yet all too often there seems to be a sense of ‘scarcity’, as though providing any level of support to another writer will somehow take away from your chances of getting published or being successful. This mindset can make writers suspicious or jealous of each other, which can then manifest in criticism that is more about their own insecurities. Even worse, such criticism can take the guise of ‘friendly fire’ – ‘I’m doing this to help you’. I’ve seen and heard of this again and again in writers’ groups.  Writers should feel safe to share their writing babies. These groups can be a great way to develop your skills, but they’re not all constructive. I’ll come back to this in another post. For the moment, my point is, writers that come from this kind of mindset don’t tend to uplift their fellow writers.

Then there are the writers who are self-important or self-absorbed, and the ones who have given up, are bitter about it, and take it out on others. There are a lot of reasons why writers might be less than supportive of others. However, the good news is there are a lot of wonderful writers out there who genuinely hold their fellow writers in high regard. Who support them through kind words, through celebrating their successes with them, through buying and reviewing their books. Small acts of kindness. Larger acts of mentorship. Providing thoughtful, caring, constructive feedback on the writing if they are in a position to do so. Because they know what it is like – how hard it is to expose your writing jugular to others. How much of your soul you have put into it.

And then there are the writing angels. Over the course of years as a writer, I’ve met all types of writers – the bitter, the self-absorbed, the supportive. But I think I’ve only ever met one genuine, fully fledged writing angel. That’s not to put down many of the other wonderfully supportive, caring writers out there.  But there is one writer that I have been incredibly lucky to meet. She is of the opinion that the writing world is big enough for everyone. She is generous of spirit and has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She informally mentors and supports writers of all ages and stages, from absolute beginners to those who have several books under their belt. She shares her knowledge of the industry, she gives her time to read others’ work and she always, always remembers that someone’s book baby is precious, giving feedback in a careful and caring way.

For me, this is the kind of writer I’d like to become.  We all have enough demons sitting on our shoulders, whispering to us as we plot our novels and write our words and create our worlds. We need more angels, standing on our other side, telling us that we can do it – that our writing is worth something.