I have fresh afternoon coffee. I have banana bread in the oven. I have broth on the stove being made. I have lentils soaking.
It was super duper foggy this morning. It has been perfect raining all day. My windows are open. I am working at my table next to one open window listening to rain and words. It is warm. It smells like wet woods and ocean and my herb plants and damp soil near my window. My home smells of cooking and baking and coffee on the other side of me. My kitten and pup are curled up looking adorbs. I have comfy warm socks on. And my evening will end walking George on the beach in drizzly rain in the grey fog of the evening, which to me is heavenly, and then a warm shower, a warm dinner, and a warm comfy bed with a good book and a pup curled at my feet. Like. For seriously. A good day for a writer.
But in passing recently, this conversation came up again, as it has for me many times, and as I sip my warm coffee on a cold day I keep coming back and pondering it,
I have this conversation a lot while meeting new people where they say,“Oh, you’re a writer? My grandson/daughter/whomever is/wants to be a writer.”
I don’t just smile and say “oh really?” And leave it at that. I am not one to ask “What do they write?” Because I hate that question myself and people never understand that I write EVERYTHING, just about…well, not sci-fi or fantasy. Many don’t understand “Well, politics and a novel about a story of….literary fiction is my best genre label for me. I hate genre labels, but they never seem to understand what literary fiction is…I mean, I swear people expect to hear “oh, romance of course”, which I am not knocking. But instead I now always stop and get serious, look them in the eye, and say “Support them”. I don’t allow this opportunity to slip by. Maybe it will move them. Maybe it won’t. But for the writers out there, maybe I did them a little justice. Not all heroes wear capes.
My honest best advice to anyone who knows anyone who is striving to be a writer while raising children, working a 9-5, slinging coffee in a Starbucks, or soon to graduate from high school or college, is to really invest in their dreams…invest in them. Friend or family. Invest in them. What else do we live for? Investing in a person is not always about money. Support holds a value like no other. For supporting a writer, there are many ways to do so, from big to little, costly to free. (And this can go for any venture other than writing as well.) And what else is family for? What is being a true friend?
I can not tell you how daunting life is when someone laughs at your dreams (my own mother) and how crushing it is when people who supposedly love you the most believe in you the least. Or when they think that you don’t because you didn’t show enough interest or support behind them on their venture.
I can not tell you how hollowing it is when relationship after relationship (for me) life revolved around THEM, their ventures, their careers, their dreams, their talents…while yours were never taken seriously, or backed in any way shape or form…I mean…did they even know? Did they even care? Not one question asked. Not one encouragement given. Not one shoulder for listening after rejection. Judgement rather than advice. Especially while you often put your dreams aside to help them build theirs? And the little chuckle even when they do speak of it…like it is a hobby, or a joke…..Soul crushing.
Trust me, the things the writer who you love or care about will go through in life….
I can not even begin to tell you the chest filling love and appreciation…and the hope I came to have for myself and the inflation of strength in myself when one person…ONE…really put their love, trust, effort, a little care, and support behind my love, dream, passion, venture, goals. It took me nearly thirty five years to have that.
When I had ONE person really ask me, really listen, and really push through in their support of me, and believing in me…I truly realized how little I had had before, my entire life, and how little I had come to believe in myself, and now how much I just about burst with my own self-belief and was ready to tackle anything by having that gift of someone else believing in me. We are human. We do need validation, at least in the ways of trust and believe and supportiveness.
For me, this person was/is Joe. Who was appalled at the lack of, much less the push back, I’d had from my entire life of family and many so-called friends. Especially after seeing how much I supported them. Hearing words of “Go for it” was enough, and then him having looked into it and smiles knowingly when I set a goal too quickly and he has done the research to know just how long it can really take. Then having no ultra over board expectations of me, But also not having a lack of believing what I can accomplish. Appreciating and seeing the hard work that I put in is amazing, was very fulfilling. When he laughs about my amount of books and threatens book jail because I have so many on our RV (there goes the gas mileage), but when he finds a utopia of books in the middle of an antique warehouse in a Southern town with tons and tons of Southern authors and books about/in/from/of the South, something I am currently working on, and leads me to it beaming at his treasure find. Or just his pure patience when I find a place like that and spend so much time pouring over shelves and shelves of dusty books. Or when we travel about and he will find something to do on his own after driving me to a town three hours away just so that I can spend hours researching in a certain library. And when he see’s that I am in my head-cloud and in my “writing mode” and he keeps the dog occupied and sits quietly with his nook for hours allowing me my space and peace even within our limited time together and in our limited RV living space, setting a bite of food or a warmed cup of fresh coffee next to me every so often.
(There’s a list down there. Keep going.)
Not crowding me in my needs or my work, research, reading, and writing…my thoughts or my time. Even when we have limited time together, if my attention needs to gear toward my work for a time, he has no complaints and all the support because for him that is a big way of showing his love. This goes for friends, family, partners, parents,…all of it. Crowding your writer takes away from their work an their creativity. Giving them that space and time is a true and cherished gift in life. A truth of love and friendship.
Joe has shown his support for me as a writer when he lent me his laptop when my died. And so on…he always says “But you need it for work” and he takes my work very seriously, even through long moments of no publications to vindicate it, and as he helps me carry yet another stack of books out the door of a bookstore or when our travels take us on different than planned originally paths. Who knew Biloxi, Mississippi would ever be in our lives? But it was for my book and thus there was no question nor complaint.
My writing to him IS my career, as much as it is to me. It isn’t a fad. It isn’t a hobby. It isn’t something that I should put aside and get a real career for. It is as serious to him as it is to me, he reminds me that it is worth it when I need to be reminded. And it. Is. Never. A. Joke. or something “cute” that I do on the side. A writer is who I am and what I do to him. Period. Hearing him tell people “Peggy is a writer” is big stuff…seriously…big stuff for your writer, too. And publishing (though I am published) doesn’t make a writer any more of a writer than somebody who is writing…or even trying to write. Books vs writing for businesses or writing articles or something that “Keeps me a step above of Ramen noodles” as I say, is writing…just because they don’t have a book out…and self-published IS a published author and a book. And striving for a book IS a writer….Amy Tan has taken eight years to write one of her books. Roxane Gay wrote for years before she was actually known for it as she is today. Stephen King’s support from his wife even while hiding in a corner of a laundry room to write was what got him through. Got him THERE. And every tiny victory counts and every rejection or block or wasted or lost time or broken down laptop hurts painfully. So be there and support your writer through all of those things. Big and small, good and bad.
There are a few other instances that I hold on to as well.
A once Professor of mine from way years prior who, after my second divorce in answering my question at approaching aged thirty and leaving the business we had been building together “What do I do now?”, she answered “What you’ve been doing.” And opened my eye’s to what, actually had been something that I did on the side but never thought could be a career, for near two decades already. She also helped with letters of recommendation to go back to school geared more for writing (and to get out of my box) that I felt the need for to get me going in this direction, and also in introducing me to many influences that she had and reading my works in progress and helping in some advice and editing, but much in encouraging and even in holding me somewhat accountable.
Another instance was a woman who I had once been friends with but with whom I was on the major outs with (over a boy of course) and who, after a super stupid period of my life where I was 100% starting over, handed me a green journal. That simple. And another at that same time and mutual friend who then handed me a pen to go with it saying “A writer must have a good pen.” Who also told me to tell people interested in my life to “read the book for $17.99”.
It was little things like this that kept a writer going. This was like a door opening that others saw the potential in me…understood me to be a writer, too, even when I myself barely understood it. Understood a NEED in me. Or even if they didn’t totally see me that way, they understood that somewhere it was what I did believe and supported it anyway. Because that is what friends do. Humans do. They don’t knock dreams and goals. Even if they didn’t know how much this meant to me and pushed me on and gave me strength. But I think they did.
Here are some ways to invest in the striving writer in your family or your friend, listed in both simple and extreme, both emotionally, and financially:
1. Believe in Them:
First of all. Believe in them. Don’t laugh. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t brush it off. Don’t joke about it. Unless it is a writer’s joke printed on a coffee mug (those are always ok). Support them. Trust them. Believe in them. Love them. Be there for them. It costs nothing and gives everything.
2. Order them a subscription to Writer’s Digest.
Writer’s Digest Magazine is a super cheap and super simple gift gives all year long and really leads them on a How To of the industry pathway. It is a fantastic diving board into so much more with a place to begin on where to look. It holds Industry, Who What Why’s When’s and Where’s. It has writing, writing tips, submitting, literary agent and publishing information, exercises and so much more, something new each month in magazine form. Basically, it is a pretty good bible of writing. For me my magazines are on my Nook (traveling full-time and my magazines can add up to 500 a year easily so lack of space).
3. Supply Reference.
From #2 there are a lot of places to go…
- Learn of good writing websites to share.
- Learn of How To books and invest in buying them (I do suggest for reference books that you sign up for the membership at B&N because that shit pays off, let me tell you). I also suggest the library…it is free. But why don’t you do some footwork for your writer and create a list at their local library of what writing resource books are on the shelf? This is a little card with a note is a good reminder and encouragement for your writer.
A book a month or even once or twice a year make great gifts of building blocks fo the writing career. Personally I prefer my books to be books rather than my nook because I write many notes and referencing back is easier but I do both on occasion. One place to begin on WHERE to begin is asking your local bookstore (always try Indie first if you can, but as I said, for reference the B&N stores membership really does come in handy, though some Indi bookstores like Twig BookShop offer promotional programs as well so be sure to ask) for their Reference section for Writer’s. I will use the example of “By Writer’s Digest or On Writing by Stephen King” when they have trouble finding the section. Nearly all good B&N have an entire 4 foot by five foot section just about these books in one single area. Some (like in San Antonio) have a lot larger. Even if you end up being more of an online orderer (also, understand Amazon and Indie Bookstores, support for authors and bookstores alike and to me not losing even the big box B&N to online shopping is important is another way to support writers and literacy in general, but that’s another story), this is a good way to understand what is out there for a writer. Just the titles and type alone will give you a lead of where to start. If your writer is not writing memoirs…don’t get them a How To Write a Memoir book. But if they are writing for a lot of Magazine submissions or want to go into journalism or write a novel or whatever…those titles will be there for you in plenty. Believe me…go, sit down, and just stare in awe. And know that which is before you is only a tiny fraction of what is available on the subject. The same goes for writer’s websites.
4. Understanding what they do and their world.
Another freebie…understand the world of writing and publishing, especially that which your loved writer is interested in. Learn and teach yourself a little about that kind, and the writing and publishing process. This truly helps you be supportive through the very long process, the rejections, the frustrations, the blockages, the giving up, the head-cloud we writer’s walk in. For really real. Do this. This helped in my relationship so much. Joe went and really learned a lot about the whole shebang. He was even able to share some things with me that I had not yet found. But he really understood the TIME it all takes (and the head-cloud for sure) he understands my dedication and how just about everything becomes “my writing world related”. He learned how and in what ways to be supportive by knowing and understanding some of the process, traditionally, professionally, and my own style of it. And even more…his learning on the subject opened up some good conversation for us, even in being able to just follow when I do discuss it or hold his own at a book event he has been dragged to (this is paid back ten fold and I now know everything about boat engines that I never wanted to know, but it’s worth it).
5. Know what your writer is writing.
This takes a little time and action and no money that shows a lot of care. If your writer is into a certain type of writing…such as say, Sci-Fi, understand a little about it. Teach yourself some of it. This helps you navigate future help, support, understanding, and even gifts of books and how to guides, websites to share, and conversation to be somewhere on the same page during a conversation. Joe himself has learned a LOT about Feminism and social justices, because of this, among more. He also understands my process and how important it is to me. And we create quite a bit of discussion out of it.
For example; during my current WIP, DeepSouth5, I am reading a ton of Southern Authors and books…him helping me find these has been fun at times, but at least understanding when I find a great Indie-Bookstore and spend some many hours digging through them (this is one big reason I visit a lot of indie bookshops everywhere I go, and invest into some full-price books like those of Jesmyn Ward or Kiese Laymon, some of which I bought from Pass Christian Books in Pass Christian Mississippi because location and support was as important to me as reading and learning. Also, maybe one day I will have my own reading there and my own book would be cool. When I was in San Antonio and it was important for me to find local authors, as everywhere I go, Twig Bookstore is amazing for this). Joe understands my many why’s and reasons’ behind this, but it takes him listening to find out these things and asking questions because sometimes I keep it to myself thinking he would be uninterested.
This really helps in our travels, too, as we do full-time, but also during DeepSouth5 in spending time in local bookstores to local cemeteries, to feeling the need to pay respects of some I have read about, and cried for (recently this happened in Ward’s book of five young men who had died in the South, including her brother). This helps him understand when I need to physically spend time soaking a location up, walking streets, talking to people.
I also spend time at colleges for lectures and at many book signings, festivals, and readings. I do my research for my current project itself but also for industry, for the writing community and much more. Joe is now well versed on who the likes of Roxane Gay is and so many authors he likely would never have heard of by himself. In turn, I hear a LOT about cars…like…major specifics. Let. Me. Tell. You. But there is always some small price to pay.
Knowing these things about your writer is an investment of attention. And it can go a very long way.
6 & 7. Know what & who your writer reads. Keep an eye out for events and even industry news connected to this.
Aside from the guide books…
Check your loved ones Wish Lists on Amazon, B&N, and by asking them. I am terrible at wish lists, but have my own hand written copy and a copy on my phone…so you may have to ask me…but hey, this makes for a conversation and coffee (what is next on your reading list? What are the next few books you are searching to add?) We writers must read to write. Even if it seems like “just” a fiction novel…believe me, this is what Joe now calls “Peg’s work” often. He understands that my reading isn’t just “lazy reading”, though as a reader himself he would never think me lazy…also, he just knows me anyway, but so many people think that “just reading” is that. Heck, my reading in a day is reference books, a novel- usually before bed but in the need and area of my current or upcoming work such as say, southern authors, marketing works, business stuff, like even organizing or sleep, political, historical, social, magazines, literary journals, places I am writing and submitting to as we must read a LOT of that, magazines I would like to submit to, poetry, essays…so. many. essays, industry news and soooo much more.
Not only can a book here and there be a gift, but knowing the books or authors on your writers lists can ring a reminder when you hear of a reading, a college lecture, or a signing event in your area or near enough by that author. Usually often free events, and hard to keep track of, you can be a pleasant surprise in just mentioning it to your writer, or surprise them with a trip and time spent together.
8. Travel with your writer.
Digging into pockets a bit, you can book vacations and trips to locations where your writer has set their book location in. This is a lot of fun and can be great if it is a fun place that you would also like to go. (Ok, so one of my recent locations was Biloxi…lol…but another in the same was New Orleans…so it does pay off, however I was able to explore places near Biloxi and meet some of the most amazing people as well who own and run the Pass Christian BookStore.)
9. A gift of time and learning for your writer.
More pocket reaching and you might consider writing camps, writers retreats, and writing seminars, writing classes, etc, but also really watch for local book festivals and the such, too. Some events are very free (unless, like me, you buy 5-10 books at each, but leave that part on them, perhaps helping by standing in lines for signings and just mentioning and being a friend going to the event itself is enough.)
10. Financial support for your writer.
You could consider a month (or even year) of paid rent and bills for your writer. An extra bedroom turned into an office. Or the shed or garage turned into a writing studio for your partner. Or some type of actual super help in this line. It might seem a lot…but having the ability to take time and really work on a book would be like…awesome sauce. I mean, if this is your kid we are talking about…what is offering them a free month of rent or a year or moving back home to the now empty three extra bedrooms you have? If it is a friend and you are traveling for a week or a month or more you can offer “house-sitting” in exchange for your writer to live rent free for a little time.
11. Making connections for your writer.
Helping find them work in the publishing and writing field using your contacts. If you know somebody who knows somebody…make things happen.
12. Doing a little research for your writer.
Finding free writing resources and classes for them. Seriously…a lot of this type of thing can take so much away from actual writing time…but by doing can add so much to it.
13. Nurturing your writer.
Being sure they eat in a day (big one here. We dive in and do not come up for much breath).
14. Caffeinating your writer. But also giving the space and time to write.
A coffeeshop gift card can go a long way in covering some internet and writing time. Sometimes we need to get out of the house to stop staring at the wall.
15. Tools for writing.
A new computer/typewriter/or some type of machine the writer could really use to actually write on. Even typing classes could be used here (and found free at local libraries). An old no internet related computer can help be set up for writing and non-distractions as well. Many writers NEED the internet for much of their work, but do their actual writing on a non-internet/no distractions hooked up word processor. Old computers actually come in hand here sometimes.
16. Platform for your writer.
Platform is a thing, so consider good phones and real camera’s for them as well. See what other authors are doing and discussion of platform and you can find ways to help your author. Not all writers are marketing or managing type people, not all are photographers or have skills and an eye for lay out and photos and websites and 140 character twitter posts…but basically these days that stuff is needed…as a writer we must learn it, do it, and it is in itself an entirely second job. There are many ways to help here…in doing some, teaching, finding resources, guiding, and knowing what’s what and passing it along. Not to say you need to take on publicist for your writer yourself…but in small ways you can help shape them into all of the tasks required of being an author these days. A little will go a long way in just simply being there for your writer in support and love.
17 & 18. Providing workspace or time to write.
You could consider a work space rental for them for a term, especially if they need some away from home time and perhaps kids…with that, also offer some babysitting time to allow them time to write. Time is most what a writer usually lacks and holds much value. And this is a way to help create structure and discipline for the writer to actually sit and write. It is like a gym membership…for a writer.
19. Providing education because it never ends.
Consider classes, and even college, going back to school, or helping them just starting out. Or explore auditing classes (freeeeeee).
20. Research for them. Fill out some paper work with them. Encourage them that they have what it takes.
Help them find and apply to grants and Residencies.
You might be investing and putting a sum of cash in, but here is the thing…is this a person who you would likely help in such a way anyway? Fixing a car or helping with bills? Is this a person who you would like to see succeed and who is putting in all the effort they can within their limits now? If this is especially a grandchild, a kid, a spouse type of person…BE that support they need, to at least the best of your abilities, or at least, in the very, some of your abilities.
There are many ways to help and support your writer. Emotionally is the biggest thing and all else without that won’t really cut it for the spirit of your writer. But that takes no money and only your thoughtfulness, love, attention, and caring about them. If you are in the position to…the financial parts big and small to your wants and abilities can go a long way. A year to write a novel and not have spend 50 hours a week to sling coffee is a huge help but also just knowing that they have someone to vent frustation’s to who actually cares and won’t judge and to listened to over a cup of coffee can really be a key need, too. And you can’t beat the gem of all gems of being believed in.
What is on your wish list as a writer?
What do you wish your loved ones would understand about your writing?
What are your biggest frustrations as a writer with those you love?
Do your friends understand you as a writer?
What do you not understand most about the writer in your life?
What would you like to learn more about?
How do you feel that you have been helpful to the writer in your life?
What have you invested into the writer in your life?
Watch this video: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/250125
Resources listed in this post (linked in blue above):
- Writers Digest Magazine and Books.
And if anyone is feeling extra giving and supportive of a writer after reading all of that and doesn’t have one in their own life…here…mama needs a new laptop. paypal.me/PeggyJDavenport