I hope the title makes you all start swaying and singing, too, because friends don't let friends do karaoke alone. C'mon, I wanna hear ya now, "We all need, somebody to lean on..."
This writing gig is a tough journey.
I tend to be pretty independent but, after more than a decade of writing and publishing, it's been proven to me again and again that this isn't a career path I'd want to travel without a support system. That support system doesn't have to traipse around with me constantly in my daily life. Virtual pals are great, too, although it's nice to have both. What it does have to be is genuine. I think we've all experienced the sting of thinking someone is a friend because they act nice on the surface, only to find they've been talking about us behind our backs, feeling resentful when things are going our way or, even worse, gleeful when things aren't. But when you find someone who is truly supportive, I don't think even the best writing tools on the planet are more effective than such a friend at helping us work through those rough patches.
When I first began taking fiction writing seriously, my only support system was my family, specifically my husband. (My son was too little back then to do anything other than shred my manuscript pages or, occasionally, chew on one.) I didn't know ANY professional writers of any kind and didn't have a clue about the process. So, until I'd finished writing my first draft, I didn't tell my parents, my husband's parents, or even my brother that I was working on a novel. Once they knew, they were tremendously supportive, especially my husband's mom, who must have earned several heavenly medals in the mother-in-law sainthood category after reading and giving me feedback on THREE different drafts of my first dreadful, deservedly unpublished manuscript. (And then the dear woman read my second manuscript. And my third. And my fourth. And most of what became my debut novel, According to Jane. She was incredible...)
My brother, who couldn't be more of a macho-cool guy and a fan of bloody thrillers, surprised me by asking to read a number of my early romance, chick-lit, and women's fiction efforts. My son, who's still a bit young to be reading most of my books, learned to give Mommy time to write uninterrupted and, when that failed, my very sweet husband learned that an evening of bonding with his son (out of the house) was right up there chocolate, roses, and whispered sweet nothings.
But strong support on the home front, while priceless, wasn't the only kind I knew I needed. I somehow lucked into getting involved with my local RWA chapter (Chicago-North), and this helped me branch out into meeting other aspiring writers online and, eventually, at conferences and in person, from all around the world. I know I wouldn't have become a published author without the insight, encouragement, and astute feedback of my critique partners. More than that, I wouldn't have survived years of rejections or the whirlwind of release days and promotional events without the friends in my life -- online and off -- who've been there to talk me out of torching a problematic scene in the fireplace, to distract me from reading negative reviews with the promise of Almond Joy martinis, and/or to email me links to helpful articles when they know it'll give me valuable information.
What about you? Who do you call on when, um, you need a hand? (Cue the music again...start swaying and clapping to the song...) Who can you lean on? Please share!
*A version of this post appeared on Magical Musings in October 2010.*Marilyn Brant is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women's fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. Her novels have won awards such as RWA's Golden Heart and the Booksellers' Best, and they've been featured in the Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, BOMC, and the Rhapsody Book Club. She loves music, chocolate, travel, and all things Jane Austen, and she was named the 2013 Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English.
Visit her website at www.marilynbrant.com or check out her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called The Road to You.