Class, class, please pay attention! Settle down, now. No, Alice, we’re not talking about boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, or any kind of significant others today. No, Glen, there’s no sex therapist giving a guest lecture. We’re talking about the relationships writers have professionally and what they look like. Yes, Timmy, we’ll have time for questions afterward. You can post them in the comments. It will likely take several classes to cover all this material, so no skipping class or you won’t do well on the test!
We’ll start by take a look at your relationships with other writers. These relationships can take many forms, and will often change over time as a writer moves through different stages of his or her career. We’ll break them down into Compatriots, Mentors, Colleagues, and Collaborators.
I Love Your Work! Will You Read My Novel?
Also known as Compatriots
When you’re a new/beginning writer, many of your relationships with other writers will be as compatriots. Technically, “compatriots” are from the same country, and in this case, the “same country” means they’re at about the same stage of their careers as you are. You’ll meet in writer’s groups and workshops, conventions and conferences. You’ll swap rejection stories and maybe offer some constructive critique on each others’ work. You’ll bounce ideas around and share information about markets and contests. You’ll commiserate about how no-one else really “gets” what it’s like to be a writer.
Your compatriots are sort of like your childhood friends in writing. Some of these friendships will last throughout your career (and you’ll always think of these writers as compatriots), and some won’t, but they’re all important in laying the groundwork for many of the relationships that lie ahead.
The core of your relationships with compatriots is that they’re all about support and encouragement. You’re learning together, learning from each other, and developing skills to take with you along the writing path.
There is no room with your compatriots for jealousy or arrogance. Jealousy and arrogance can take many forms–from harsh personal criticism (“that ending sucks”) to peer pressure (“you should write romance, it’s the best-selling genre!”), from snobbish derision (“oh, I don’t care about the money, I write to enlighten”) to all-out sabotage of your work (“if you changed the main character’s gender, took out the best friend, and changed the ending like this, it might be a decent story”).
If you find yourself in the company of supposed compatriots who do not treat you and your work with support, encouragement, and respect, your best bet is to distance yourself from them. They may be at a similar writing career stage, but they are not your friends, they’re not going to help you one little bit, and they’re not going to let you help them. At this stage of your career, they are not what you need.
Riiiiiiiiing! Well, there’s the bell. In tomorrow’s class, we’ll talk about Mentors.