English novelist Will Self has been credited with saying: “The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement. If you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.”
I think he’s wrong.
Of course writing requires time alone, lots of it, without distractions so that you can hear your own thoughts, turn them into words and craft those words to best convey your meanings. But writing, the act of actually writing, is only one part of the writing life.
Most writers have some kind of ambition for their writing. By ambition I don’t mean that you want to be the next Stephen King. I mean that you want to see your writing going somewhere other than into your desk drawer. Ambitions can be modest: to learn how to write better dialogue, to publish a blog post, to send a short story or a poem to a competition. Or your ambitions can be greater: to self-publish your book or to get it accepted by a publisher. If you are writing anything other than your own private journal, you have ambitions for your writing.
I believe that any writing that you have ambitions for, however modest, will benefit from collaboration. Let’s see if I can convince you.
Collaboration is about working with other people and working with other people is good because it makes you feel less like you are in solitary confinement. Working with other people is also more fun and productive because there are more brains to contribute to what you are trying to do. Working with other people makes it easier to reach your writing goals.
So how can other people contribute to your writing?
If you want to improve your dialogue, other people can read what you have written and give you feedback. This might be a critique by a writing coach, but it may also be the response of someone who reads novels; they can tell you how the dialogue sounds to them.
If you are publishing a blog post, collaborators might contribute by providing a photograph to illustrate your post or helping you to set up your blog. Someone may edit your writing before you post to save you from embarrassing grammatical errors. Once your post is up people will contribute by reading, liking and sharing your post. Comments to your post will keep your blog alive and give you feedback on what your readers are thinking and want to read about.
If your goal is to self-publish a book, you might be interested in collaborating with readers to give you feedback on initial drafts, an editor to help you polish your work or a designer to design the book and the cover. You may want to work with a marketer to set up a promotion strategy and an event planner to arrange your launch. You will almost certainly be relying on your social media network to like, share and comment when you launch your book.
The point is that publishers put together a team with different kinds of expertise to publish a book, and so should you. You can draw on a team of experts for any piece of writing that has a goal.
So think about who you need, with what expertise, to support your current writing project. Find yourself a team of experts that you can draw on at different stages of your writing and for different writing tasks. At the very least, every writer needs a group of friends to cheer them on, inspire them and to celebrate with when they finally hit send.
If you are looking for collaborators to help you reach your writing goals, come along to the Regular Writer’s Tea at Better. Every Friday from 10 am to 12 noon.