Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How Helping Other Writers Helps You – Sarah Allen

I think, in general, writers are known as a welcoming and supportive community. That has been my experience as a new writer and blogger since the very beginning. People have offered advice and support that has helped me progress along my journey, and groups like the Insecure Writers Support Group are solid evidence of the way the writing community tries to support its members.

But this is not always the case. I am saddened when I see the rare cases of back-biting and author jealousy. I am a firm believer that there is room for all of us on the shelves, and that by helping other writers, we also help ourselves. Here’s how:

1. We find new readers. Writers are readers too, correct? Reaching out to support and help other writers is one of the best ways to introduce ourselves to a potential reader. Whether in real life or online, giving advice or a comforting word to a fellow writer will familiarize them with our name in a positive way. Of course I don’t mean for this to be all contractual, and the key is starting with genuine friendship. And to add cheese upon cheese, everyone is helped when you make new friends.

2. We find new publicity support. You remember when someone spontaneously gives your book a shout-out on Twitter or their blog, right? I know I do. And when they do I’m much more inclined to follow them or even give their book a looksie. In this way we create a team of friends both online and IRL who will help us spread the word when we have a release. Again, this doesn’t work as a straight up tit-for-tat kind of thing, and when someone lends a supporting hand solely for some kind of reciprocation or obligation, that’s just slimy and obnoxious. But by starting with genuine friendship we can create a trailblazing team that supports everyone involved.

3. We find new inspiration. I firmly believe we are shaped by the people around us. From family and closest friends to casual acquaintances and even strangers. I feel intellectually and creatively inspired by discussions with my roommates, or the great content on my favorite blogs, or the pictures of kitties in bowties I found on Tumblr. When we interact with other people, even in small ways, our circle of experience is expanded, and that can only mean good things for our writing.

C. S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone,” and I think in large part we write for that reason as well. This isn’t a race where only one person can win. In fact its more like a hike up a steep mountain, and the more we help each other, the higher we can climb.

Sarah Allen is querying two novels (one adult, one YA, both magical realism) and drafting a third. She has been published in several literary magazines and placed in several writing competitions such as the Utah Arts and Letters Original Writing competition and the Writer’s Digest 77th annual competition. She received her English degree from BYU and currently lives in Las Vegas where she works as a grant writer for Best Buddies Nevada. You can find her at her Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other places. Her short story collection, Cross-Eyed, is available on Amazon.

23 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sarah and Alex - this is a great post for life in general .. we live better if we're kind and supportive, and as you mention helpful - we learn as we help and I quite agree re teamwork ... cheers and good luck with those queries - Hilary

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful post. I've found so much support, encouragement, and inspiration amongst this awesome writing community. I'm always happy to help out fellow writers.

Pat Hatt said...

There is sure a ton of support around indeed. There will always be the few back biters, but just knock a few of their teeth out and the biting will cease lol

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I wouldn't have made it without the support of other writers!
Thanks again, Sarah.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

I thought I posted but it didn't show up. Will try again.

You are so right, Sarah. I've met some of the most wonderful writers that are supportive not only with my writing life but in my personal life too. They are my forever friends.
Your article is a great reminder.
Thanks.

Linda Kay said...

Sarah and Alex, I agree with Hilary that the post is meaningful in all aspects of life. My world has grown exponentially since getting into the blogging world, and I think it has stimulated my "writing" brain. Thanks for the post!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

This is a great post. Love it. So true.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Yes, we write and read to know that we are not alone! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Slimy and obnoxious - that is exactly how it feels. Giving can only be done when nothing is expected in return.

Fundy Blue said...

I enjoyed reading your post, Sarah! I can't believe how friendly and welcoming the blogging world has been to me, especially when I discovered the IWSG and the encouraging, helpful members it has. Good luck with your WIP!

olgagodim said...

Great post, Sarah. I'd like to give you a piece of unsolicited advice. I hope you won't be offended by it. There is a bestselling magic realism author Sarah Addison Allen, one of my favorite writers. When I first saw your post I thought you're her. If you want to distinguish yourself from her, you might consider changing your writer's name to some other pen name, so there is no confusion.
Sorry if I presume too much.
Olga

Michelle Wallace said...

Another writer called it creative altruism - it's all about supporting others, and in doing so you're supporting yourself too.
Great post!

Janie Junebug said...

I love finding ways to help people. I probably get more out of it than they do.

Love,
Janie

Sarah Allen said...

Wow, you guys are so great!! Thank you for the comments. Creative altruism...I like it!

Olga--yes!! No offense at all :) I've read some of Sarah's stuff, and quite enjoyed it! I've thought about adding my middle initial to distinguish myself, and may do that. Otherwise though, I like to keep myself genuine. Guess we'll see :)

Michelle Athy said...

Fantastic post. Definitely sharing this. It's been so lovely to find writing and blogging friends online, including groups like IWSG.

Chemist Ken said...

With all the insecurity that writers face, it's important to remember that publishing isn't a zero sum game. It's possible for everyone to win. Nice thoughts, Sarah.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Those are great reasons and I think lots of writers support others just because they're nice people.

Suzanne Sapsed said...

Sadly this sort of behaviour is rife in all areas. Excellent counter measures :) xx

dolorah said...

I have lots of writer friends, some writing the same genre's and concepts as me. I hope they all get published and do well. You're right, its not competition, as every writer has their own style.

J.L. Campbell said...

This post reminds me just how much help I've received from others. It makes paying it forward second nature.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Just realized my comment didn't stick last time. How come? I said nice things, like great post. Okay, I should probably have mentioned that I have a friend who writes like SNL writers, yet never reads. Weird, eh?

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cleemckenzie said...

Yep. Couldn't be said any better than this. I've had a couple of encounters with the not so kind fellow writer, but I've had a hundred times more encounters with supportive and thoughtful ones. How lucky to have those.