Friday, 5 June 2009

Support Systems

The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they've been in.
Dennis Potter, dramatist (1935-1994)

Morning all. It's sunny here in Cornwall at the moment and my washing is dancing on the line like contestants for Strictly....

As we all know, writing is a solitary occupation, and having all the requisite insecurities that come from being one, I find that a support system is vital.

When I first started writing, a group of us met once a week and worked our way through thousands and thousands of typos, errors, plot inconsistencies and dud characters. That group petered out – I'm the only one still writing, to my knowledge – and there were other groups over the years, but they too petered out.

So my main support system now is my dear friend Nancy who, having taught Psychology, is extremely adept at Structure (one of my many weaknesses), as well as being a very talented writer herself. We've added two more ladies recently – we've only met once so it's early days yet – but I came away with a good feeling. Their comments were helpful and intuitive, and they are both avid readers which can only be a good thing.

I have recently been admitted to the Society of Authors (I can call myself a Real Writer now!) and found to my delight that there is an active group that meet regularly in Cornwall, so I will go to their first meeting at the end of this month. To have more support from published writers would be an added bonus.

My other, non-writing support system is my husband who, despite claiming not to like women writers (NOT a comment that went down well in this household), is staunch in his support of my small successes, and endures my sleepless nights and wailing over rejections with fortitude. He is quietly understanding, in a non-understanding way, and I don't know what I'd do without him.

I am also indebted to my mum in Devon and my sister in law in Vermont who proof read my articles before they go out and are ace at providing the sort of feedback I need. (“What a cow – send that out again straight away.” “Love the new title!” as well as “You've got sky in twice – and do skylarks do that?” and many others.)

My other non-writing friends are ace at providing support in the form of (in no particular order), walks, glasses of wine, trips to the cinema and lifts to yoga. All vital.

This is sounding like an Oscar tribute here, but I must also mention Mollie Dog who accompanies me on many walks, gives me such joy and laughs and when she snuggles up to me on the sofa, a bad day becomes a good day.

I hereby raise a glass – or mug of tea – to support systems. What are yours?


Graeme K Talboys said...

I've had wonderful support over the years from a number of well-known writers who have encouraged, discussed, been for drinks and generally tolerated someone like me. I won't say who as it will be too much like name dropping, but in my younger years I had no shame and would approach any writer I admired and often found they were extremely supportive.

In more recent years I have had a huge amount of support from all the folk I've come to know through doing the OU CW courses. And just as valuable as writing support is the fact you can go to such people, have a good moan, and know they understand exactly why you are feeling sh*tty. The same goes for forums (fora?) such as this. Thanks.

My cat Catkin (who died earlier this year) kept me company ever since the time I first got published. She was prickly soul and often wanted a cuddle at exactly the wrong moment, but was nonetheless an essential part of Team Grum.

The most vital member of that team is my wife, Barbara. Proof reader and shoulder to cry on, someone who listens to my moans, pats me on the head and sends me back to the keyboard, who posts all my submissions, and generally puts up with me. Someone who tolerates the grumpiness of a writer and still likes him is a precious person indeed.

liz fenwick said...

I feel I should raise a glass of wine - well it is after one here but about to head to gym so not a good idea :-)

My biddest support is my husband followed my my kids and my parents. Their total belief that I will make it keeps me going when those crows hover.

For the actual writing there is nothing like another writer and I am blessed with groups of writers that keep me going - Novel Racers being key here but most of them have come from the RNA. From the ranks of RNA I have found kindred souls, drinking buddies, devil's advocate and those people willing to go out on a limb for you - to help you become the writer you can be.

I have to say that for all other part of my life - my husband, friends and God keep me sane and strong in my crazy life.

Debs said...

I'm going to have to have a large cup of tea, as I've just finished hoovering and washing my floors before setting off to the shed.

My greatest supporters are my husband, mother, and sister (such total belief in me, it helps keep me going), my aunt, an extremely knowledgable teacher and avid reader, who I can count on to be completely honest about my writing and my ideas.

The Novel Racers, and blogger friends are such a support and always ready with a word of advice and ones that never cease to cheer me up.

I'm a member of the RNA and there are members who are very kind and helpful, but apart from my family, my friend Chris, a wonderful writer, is always on hand with encouragement.

Kate.Kingsley said...

Having recently finished the OU writing course A363 (actually had to rush to finish the final assignment after my waters broke!) I was lucky to be invited to join a small group of critiquers as part of that, and ther help was utterly invaluable. We're hoping to keep in touch as a critique group now that the course has finished. An absolute godsend, as I'd never have managed to juggle the course and my pregnancy without their support :-)

And despte having been the world's worst Novel Racer whilst gestating I find the support of fellow NR-ers very useful. Anyone got any tips on how to fit writing in between nappy changes? ;-)

Leatherdykeuk said...

I joined SoA but haven't done anything about it yet. Even if there was a support group here I couldn't travel. I rely on a couple of online groups (There are several people in a closed shop writing group on livejournal who read everything I write) and a couple of real-world friends who check for errors. One darling lady has just read all ten novels and made margin notes on them all (that's why I make single private copies on lulu. My partner DK will proof read if I beg nicely, but I'll only ask him if I ever sell another novel.

Karen said...

Lovely post, and I too am indebted to my very own Molly-dog, who endures me muttering like a bag-lady about plot-lines and structure on our twice daily walks!

My husband is super-supportive too, and so are my family though I don't show them my work unless it's published! My blog readers and the online support from the short story group I'm part of are invaluable for feedback, encouragement and for just being there, knowing what it's like :o)

Anonymous said...

So now I know who's nicked all the sunshine! Can I have it back please? Drinking Pimms on a cloudy day just isn't the same.

I suppose I have three main support systems for my writing.

1. My friends and family. Of course, I don't trust all of my friends, nor all of my family with my manuscripts, but there are enough good readers who give me encouragement and feedback.

2. The Wannabe a Writer circle and associates. We have great fun chatting on-line and with our collaborative group writing blogs. We even meet in real life sometimes.

3. The Novel Racers. Who? Yep, you lot. Long may it continue.

Now I think about it, all three groups are starting to merge. I raise my glass to you all.

ChrisH said...

Good question, FP. I feel I should be clearing my throat here, or choking back the tears. My daughters have always treated my writing ambitions with huge respect and have supported me through thick and thin, but it's Tom, husband and critical reader extraodinaire, who does all the donkey work and red pen stuff. Running also keeps me writing; it's taught me that small steps make a long distance runner.

I don't feel I've been the greatest NR, time gets swallowed up by other things, but I have really appreciated the support from you all during the tough times - maybe one day I will get to share the good times!

KayJay said...

4 or 5 very close friends
My lovely new local writing crit group of 5 frighteningly clever and talented women
Novel Racers, and a few other writing cyber-friends
Regular forays into The Great Outdoors of New England
The off-licence - or as they call it here, the package store
Pizza, and the occasional cupcake (hey, I'm in the USA) but also endless cups of British Blend Tetleys.

B said...

My tutor group for A363 is the best, even after it's finished. They are very helpful and supportive and like Helen, I never would have got through without them. Although my finish wasn't quite so dramatic!

So between them and the novel racers and other online writers (thought I'd slip in a thanks there!), I'm quite well set for support systems :)

Fia said...

I had hoped that my mother's fancy man - a retired film editor - would make a good mentor for my novel writing, but he fell asleep reading my WIP. I think it needs more work.

Luckily I have a very good friend and fellow blogger who is astute and clever with all things writerly. Other writing friends have also been invaluable with their feedback.

The wall is also an excellent judge of my work.

Liane Spicer said...

A boyfriend encouraged me to stop dreaming and get started. The relationship crashed but the writing took off.

At first I wrote pretty much in the dark. After a couple years my son's math teacher, a closet writer himself, discovered we had this in common and we've been friends since, offering encouragement and acting as each other's first reader. I never let anyone read anything while I'm working on it, and he had to practically arm-wrestle me into letting him read my first manuscript, but now handing over the stack of pages to each other has become automatic.

My sister has been stalwart in her belief in my work through the years and this year I co-opted her as my second first (!) reader. It was a very wise decision!

And finally, a few years down the line and after I'd secured a publishing deal, I discovered online writers (yes, that includes the Racers!) with their wonderful understanding and support. Thank you!

Flowerpot said...

Apologies to all fellow NRacers. I sort of took it that you are one of my main supports, even if, like a few others, I am not the most involved Racer of all. But I do very much value your support.

Anonymous said...

Having a support system is important I think and I'm lucky that my husband is very patient! I don't get very much encouragement from my family however, but I usually just lock myself away whilst Amy's at school and hope nobody calls at the house. This house is one of those "door is always open" types and has been for many years! Not easy to turn folk away but can be rather frustrating when I'm right in the middle of good stint and someone calls for coffee!

CJ xx

Lane said...

Sorry to be so shockingly late.

My family a supportive to a degree, but being 'pre' published, there's only so much support and understanding you can expect.

My main support, and one I couldn't do without, comes from my writing/blogger friend. That's invaluable. Also the Wannabe group, other bloggers and of course, the Racers.

And coffee. Oh so much support from coffee. Have a good week chaps.