Monday, May 12, 2014

Surviving the Writing Life III

In my recent posts I've talked about defining success for yourself and comparing yourself to other writers. Here I continue with issues people brought up during an SCBWI schmooze in Albuquerque. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in some of these questions and find guidance in the answers. These work even better as group discussion questions, so consider bringing them to your critique group or discussing them over coffee with writing friends.

How do you create a support system?

– Spend time with other writers at SCBWI meetings, critique groups, classes, or a retreat. Fellow Mayhemer Joy McCullough-Carranza says, “I’m so grateful for my support system, both from within the writing community and from my family and friends. When I was first starting out with middle grade, I struggled to find that support system. But before long, I’d found my people. I found them through reaching out to people whose blogs or message board posts I liked. (I met Project Mayhem’s Marissa Burt through Absolute Write, and now she’s one of my closest real-life friends.) I found them through participating in contests like Pitch Wars, and doing ‘critique partner dating service’ type match-ups.” 

– If you can’t make it to those groups, there are online places where creators can find support, such as The SCBWI Blueboard, which has discussion threads on many topics.

– Be willing to talk honestly about what you’re going through. Offer support and avoid competing.

– Ask for help, but don’t expect to get more than you give. Even if you’re a beginner, do your fair share. For example, lead a discussion where you share your favorite writing books. If you’re not confident about your critique skills, study editing techniques to make them better, and in the meantime offer emotional support.

– Ask for your family’s support and be specific about what you need. Mothers in particular tend to be givers who put everyone else first. But you owe your daughters and sons the example of what it means to be a strong, fulfilled woman. It may take time to train everyone to respect your dreams and goals, but it won’t happen at all if you don’t start – and take your dreams and goals seriously yourself. Speaking of which…

How do you get your family and friends to take your writing seriously?

– Treat your writing like a business. Schedule “office hours” and stick to them. Set specific goals with specific deadlines. Keep receipts for tax deductions. This will also help you take yourself seriously as a writer, and those feelings should carry over in your interactions. (Of course, if you don’t want to be a professional writer – if writing is a hobby – that’s fine. You still have a right to spend time on your hobby, but you might not organize it like a business.)

– If someone dismisses your writing because you haven’t earned money off of it yet, point out that developing a new career takes time. You must invest time (and sometimes money) in your education, the same way you will invest in your children’s education. If you’re still in the learning stage, it’s like you’re a part-time college student.

– Take yourself seriously and insist your family do the same. Don’t promise fame or financial success, but honor your right to do this for yourself, regardless of the outcome. Joy notes, “I have been fortunate not to have to do anything to get my family and friends to take me seriously. I think that’s largely because I take it so seriously that they wouldn’t dare do anything else.”

– Don’t give in to guilt. If you always put others first, you train them to believe your needs are not important.

Have you struggled with these issues? Do you have additional tips?

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.


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  2. I am struggling with getting family support right now. My husband is hit and miss. Feels neglected. My kids don't get it.
    I'd click the support group link but too busy trying to blog, promote the blog, take blogging classes, work full time, and be an attentive family member!