For some reason “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” wormed its way into my mind in the early dark this morning, so I went in search of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
As I am the type of person who seems to remember every word to every song (or pretty nearly) I found myself singing alone almost immediately. Then the first track ended, and Ringo Starr’s solo song, “A Little Help From My Friends” burst out.
It got me thinking about some of the posts over the last few days, those about writing in a vacuum, writing without a support team, and just how tough that is.
Some of you have commented publicly, or in emails to me, that you do have active and caring support systems, and that is terrific, but I wonder how common that really is.
When I am in the initial stages, the idea stages, I like to bounce thoughts around a bit. See what kind of reaction people get.
Sure, it’s nice to have someone there all the time, somebody who will give feedback, and even better if that person can do so in an unbiased manner (something much trickier than even the person giving the feedback is often aware).
I’ve had reports of spouses who love everything someone writes—or maliciously picks it apart. I’ve heard of friends who focus on areas that are easily handled by a spellchecker, or by the writer him- or herself in rewrite, rather than digging into the story, the characters, the logic of the piece.
So many people, when they hear you are writing—or have written—a book declare themselves to be highly efficient editors, but given the chance to actually do the work find endless reasons to put it off.
What I think it all boils down to is this: In order to get useful feedback you need to depend upon people who also need useful feedback. In other words, a writing group, a club, a critique group, etc. If the person who is critiquing you wants… no, needs true, no-holds-barred, honest feedback in order to succeed, then he or she has a vested interest in giving you the same.
A fellow writer who only wants—and worse, insists on—good news doesn’t have a chance in hell of ever making it.
Who is your support team? Who can you run ideas by without fear of losing them? Who can check your work for logical problems, point out “dead” herrings, and help you stay on track? Can you name at least two?