In general, writers do not do their best work in a group. The very nature of creative writing is a solitary pursuit, but without taking great care, can morph into a feeling of isolation. And this can occur whether an author lives in a quiet rural town or in midtown Manhattan. (The one in New York, not Kansas)
So, how does an author, feeling isolated and alone stay motivated? How do they develop and maintain a marketing platform on their own? How do they maintain their creative edge when most of their time is spent in relative solitary confinement?
First and foremost, they need to continually hone their skills. This agency has many resources available on our website and Steve Laube heads the Christian Writers Institute, providing anyone with mentoring through classes offered and great information. www.ChristianWritersInstitute.com
But how do you overcome the feelings of isolation and loneliness which afflict so many authors? When you need someone to hold up your arms, what do you do?
Left unaddressed, isolation can lead to discouragement, creative-paralysis, and a myriad of other bad things threatening to stop writers of all experience levels in their tracks.
I am going to suggest a course of action counter to what you might think. To “zig” when you expected to “zag.”
Please bear with me as I tell a short story.
Over thirty years ago I attended a people management seminar. It was a broad ranging presentation over several days with some excellent teachers. About a hundred people were in this particular group.
Breakout groups were for new managers, refresher skills for experienced managers, those at government offices, non-profits, public corporations, etc. I still recall some of the presentation material today as very helpful.
I clearly remember one session on developing employee worth and self-esteem. The presenter’s approach emphasized the need for a manager to first have a high level of self-worth and personal confidence and once they had a “full reservoir” of each, distribute them to their staff.
It made sense.
But as we learned how to develop a high level of self-worth, I recall thinking their approach was different than my Christian faith would have directed. It pointed to somewhat “artificial” means to puff up one’s self rather than anything of depth.
After all, repeating “I am good, I am great, I am wonderful” only goes so far.
In a breakout session, we went around the table giving our impressions of the material and I mentioned the concept of giving and receiving (never mentioning the Bible or Jesus).
You want to feel appreciated? Show appreciation. You want to feel loved? Love someone.
I suggested if a manager wanted to increase their own sense of worth, they should focus first on improving the worth of others.
The stunned silence around the table combined with the apparent appearance of antlers growing from my head (based on the looks I received) proved I was suggesting a foreign concept.
Of course, as believers we do give from our abundance as God has lavished his grace on us, allowing us all to give others grace from his overflowing supply. But I felt this level of theological discussion was too much for this particular business seminar!
So I just kept it simple at the “Give much, receive much” level, which was confusing to anyone committed to a “Get first, give a little” strategy.
Let’s consider author isolation in a similar counter-intuitive manner:
- If you need encouragement, encourage another writer. Read the books of people you have met at conferences and correspond with them.
- If you need mentoring, start by mentoring young writers (middle school students are a good start). You don’t need an MFA to mentor a twelve year old in creativity. Teaching is the best form of learning.
- Register and attend a writer’s conference with the specific purpose of seeking out an isolated, discouraged writer (even if you are one) and offer to be their accountability/encouragement partner. (As opposed to going to a conference looking for someone to do this for you.)
- Help another writer establish their author-marketing platform.
- Help shape someone else’s work.
- Start a writer’s group and devote yourself to others’ growth.
- Start a creative writing group at your public library.
- Start a writing group in your church.
- Connect with homeschooler groups to discuss creative writing.
- Recommend other authors’ books to your friends.
When you spend time helping someone else, your own writing,
creativity, sense of purpose and value improve exponentially.
The more you focus solely on yourself, the less you will grow.
So how do you overcome the dreaded Isolated Author Syndrome?
Help someone else defeat it.