The Importance of a Support System (Tips on Writing Tuesday #5)

This past week, friend and fellow local author, Lana Krumwiede, had a Twitter chat to answer questions about her debut release, Freakling, (which I will be reviewing in the coming weeks), but also to talk about a local writing conference where she will be speaking.  (Sidenote: if you are a writer, and live in Central Virginia, why are you not coming to the James River Writer’s Conference?)

During the Twitter chat, somebody asked her about critique groups.  They asked, “Do you feel every writer needs one?”

This was Lana’s response:

Critique groups may not be important for everyone, but every writer needs writer friends in some fashion. Need that support!
This is something, as a writer, I have only come to appreciate (and apply) within the past year.  Anybody, in any line of work, but especially a creative outlet such as writing, needs a support system.
Now I don’t mean your mom saying, “That’s the best thing I’ve ever read!” or your significant other saying, “You should put that on FB, that’s really good!”   No…you need a support system of people that are not related to you:-)

Why?
What I have learned from other writers, and what I have experienced myself, is that the benefit of having a support system of others is at least two-fold:
1) You have an outlet to share your struggles, frustrations, concerns, goals, highs, lows and everything in between….with people who know exactly what you are going through.  It’s one thing to share it with your best friend who says, “Hey that’s great!” or “Don’t give up!”  It’s another thing to share it with a fellow writer, who has struggled as you have, who knows what it’s like to stare at the blank page in frustration.   
You need that kind of support in this lonely world called writing.
2) Your writing will improve.  Writing is not just about writing.  It’s about ideas and learning and techniques and background and every once in a while getting away from the keyboard to find out what others are doing.  Then, when you come back to your material, you will be amazed at how much you have grown.
As Lana mentions above, your support may come from a critique group (maybe online or in person), it may be a local writing group that hosts workshops or just a few friends that get together informally.  However it is, the key is that you find that support.  
Interested but not sure where to start?  Here are some great resources that have been VERY beneficial to me and I hope can at least give you an idea of what’s out there:
Absolute Write Forums – THE writers forum online to discuss everything from ideas, format, technique, editing, publishing, agents, etc.  You name it, it’s on there.  A great community!
Goodreads – Goodreads is a free website for book lovers. Imagine it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone’s bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can also post your own reviews and catalog what you have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. Don’t stop there – join a discussion group, start a book club, contact an author, and even post your own writing. 
– Scribophile – The online writing group and writing workshop where you get thoughtful critiques and feedback on your writing.  I was amazed at how much my editing improved as I edited other peoples work, not my own.
– http://www.newpages.com/writing-conferences/ – A great, comprehensive list of local writing conferences.

What kind of support system do you use to help you grow as a writer?

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