I know I’m lucky. This time last year I was in the early stages of my Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators mentorship. I still can’t believe how fast it flew by. Having a mentor who was a published author with industry experience had a huge impact on my writing—I could list countless examples, but that’s not what this post is about. Despite how amazing that experience was, when my mentorship wrapped up it left me feeling a bit adrift.
I went from having someone who was incredibly supportive and knowledgeable giving me pointers, deadlines, targeted tasks, and ideas about helpful resources to once again sifting through things on my own. I soon came to a not-so comforting realization: Being a writer can be isolating. I constantly second guess how I’m balancing all of my different writing tasks: drafting new works in progress, revising first (or second or third) drafts, promoting myself on social media, reading in my genre, pursuing publishing, seeking feedback, beta reading for others. And that doesn’t even take into consideration having a life outside of writing. It can be a lot to juggle.
Fortunately, I finally found a writer’s group that meets in person. There are so many things people turn to the internet for, and I attempted to go this route for critique partners. I thought it would be more efficient since I wouldn’t have to leave my house. I even completed a few beta reading swaps. But every connection was temporary and often took lots of messages on the side to figure out how this particular partnership would work. And then after a couple of weeks it was over…and I was searching again, starting from scratch.
It reminded me of something I already knew about myself but had somehow forgotten: I like to actually know the people I’m partnering with as more than just a name or picture on a website. I think when you become familiar enough with a person’s writing style over time, it naturally leads to better feedback. Additionally, you get to know them better as people, and vice versa, which helps me trust that they have my best interests at heart. After all, it takes a lot of trust to hand 75,000 words that I poured my heart and soul into to another person and basically say, “Hey, will you read this and give me your completely honest opinion about everything you like and dislike about it. No hard feelings. Please and thank you.” It also takes a lot of trust to tell someone your honest opinion, especially when it might not be what they want to hear.
I’m happy to say that my writers group is a bright spot in my month. Sitting down with other people who are in the trenches with me makes me feel less isolated on this journey. It’s only been a few months, but I already feel valued as a writer and a critiquer when I’m in their midst for two hours, which in my opinion go by far too fast.
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