If you’ve ever been to a writing conference, you’ve likely heard questions about how majority writers can accurately portray underrepresented demographics. Writers often hear about how so many books are dominated by white heterosexual characters, and many want to include other types of people, sensitively, into their stories. They want to be the solution to the scarcity.
This is a wonderful desire to have, and we should definitely include accurate representations of all sorts of people in our work. However, there’s a fine line between being inclusive and trying to tell a story we don’t understand and can’t accurately portray (or shouldn’t try to, even if we feel we can). No matter how good our intentions are, there are stories that would be better told by someone who knows more about it—who is closer to it.
The writing community is full of some of the kindest people in the world. At least that's been my experience. Writers are free with their compliments, ready to offer service or support, and incredibly demonstrative when you finally get to meet face to face. These are the traits that make deep friendships, so even though I live in a completely different state than most of my writing colleagues, they are some of the dearest friends.
However, sometimes being a writer can feel a little like being on a desert island. You have to isolate yourself from distractions to spend time at the keyboard or page. But at the same time, we can't become a black hole of ideas with no relatable experiences to draw from. So, today, I'd like to introduce you to a revitalizing tool I use in my writing life.
There are many benefits to collaborative projects. In fact, it's one of the greatest and most enriching experiences writers can have. Bringing multiple brains and mediums to the same project levels up a story's potential in a major way. The energy, excitement, and momentum that collaboration produces makes inkling ideas transform into tri-dimensional sagas. Then, once your masterpiece is complete, you have an expanded circle of influence and networking to draw from to help spread the good news! And the best part of all, is that you have someone to share the excitement of creation with.
How to select a collaborative partner:
In today's world you don't have to live close to the people you want to work with. My artist lives in Idaho. My musical team lives in Utah. I live in California. Thanks to Google Hangouts and Drive, we can all talk and collaborate on the same document simultaneously. However, it's important to consider a few things carefully before jumping into a project with someone. Here are my critical ingredients to look for when selecting a collaborative partner, and a critical ingredient to be for them.
Writing presents a unique dilemma compared to other jobs. There are few markings of success by which to judge ourselves on along the road to publishing.
I worked at Starbucks before I had my first little one. Every day I knew exactly what needed to be done, and when. In the morning iced teas and coffees required prepping, grinders needed filling, and pastries were stocked with a set number of goodies, each placed in an enticing display. In other words, there was a clearly defined checklist, and when the list was accomplished, it felt good! Then there were the drinks. To this day I still can put my body through the motions of making a Frappuccino. Fill the Blender with ice, three pumps of white mocha, three pumps of “Frappuccino Sauce” and milk. Then I blend, pour, and finish with a beautiful crown of whip cream. I knew when I did it right because it looked beautiful, and the customer was happy (well…most of the time).
Unfortunately, writing isn’t like that, is it? Sometimes I trick myself into thinking that it is. I will happily create a checklist of chapters, scenes, and themes and feel that same sense of satisfaction as I check them off after a productive writing session is over. I try to quantify my work by setting out to write a certain number of hours or words in one sitting.
I meet a lot of writers. At expos and book signings, at writing conferences and even less-expected places, like the grocery store and church functions. I love meeting like-minded people! Some of these writers are published authors, either traditional or indie published. Some are still in the pre-publication phase, looking hopefully towards an as-of-yet unrealized future where their works are published. I find that writers in the pre-publication crowd tend to fit into two categories.
The first are actively seeking to better themselves and their writing. They go to conferences, listen to podcasts, peruse blogs, but most of all they WRITE. They write until their fingers bleed. They press friends and family to read what they've written, grit their teeth and take any criticism that comes. They query agents endlessly, take notes at writing conferences, and get flustered when an already-published author asks them what they write or what their story is about...then take the advice they are given to improve the pitch. These are the ones who are motivated to become published writers. They have goals, steps they are actively taking to pursue that pie in the sky and make writing their career. These are the ones that are becoming more and more rare because self-publishing makes it so easy to push a button and say "I'm published." These are the writers I call potential "career writers".
Then there's the second kind of pre-published writer. They write...or rather, they have a story they started once years ago, sometimes decades. It might even still be just an idea. They can tell you the plot, recite character names, traits, and background stories by heart, but if you ask about publication or when they will be finished, that's when it gets awkward. There are always excuses. They might not even remember the last time they wrote. They they clearly love writing, but it is pretty obvious that this is a different breed of writer than the first. I call these "hobby writers".
Now I want to be clear, right here at the beginning. Both of these types of writers are wonderful, creative, talented people. Both of these writers have vast amounts of potential. Both are fantastic individuals whom I respect and would love to be friends with. They can both call themselves writers, and honestly, I've been in both positions at different parts of my life.
Both writers are best served by one valuable thing: acknowledging what writing is to them.
By understanding if you intend to make writing a career (or if it already is!) or if it's simply a hobby, you can prioritize your life without feeling the guilt that comes with taking too much or not enough time on something. If you know writing is like a career to you, then giving it more time and space in your life would be a priority over most other things. If you know writing is more like a hobby, then letting it go so you can do things you enjoy more will create so much more freedom. It's all about expectations.
To be extra clear, I don't mean "career" in the sense of "job". Many career authors have regular day jobs like anyone else, either to make ends meet because their writing career provides a hobby-sized income, or because they enjoy their day job and just don't care to quit. What separates hobby authors and career authors is largely one word: PROGRESS. Check out these dictionary definitions of "hobby" and "career" that I love:
Disclaimer: This post contains images that depict mild nudity
Where do ideas come from? Well that should be an obvious answer. They com from our minds. But as obvious as it seems, it’s really far more complicated than that. Ideas are formed from countless experiences, people, and things from the real world. All of those things are then organized into different patterns and from this, you can get a story. Just as stories are formed like this, so too are dreams. Stories and dreams are often one in the same. I’m not talking about dreams or goals for the future, I mean breaking reality, creating your own worlds, being at the mercy of your subconscious as it processes all of those experiences, people, and things from the real world. Dreams are the raw forms of stories, and they are an incredibly amazing tool to use when writing.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.