Writers Helping Writers
My mother (who is an avid reader, but not a writer) is consistently amazed by the way writers help other writers, especially with regard to self-publishing. I tell her about the conversations I enjoy at writers conferences or about the way New York Times bestselling authors take time out of their production schedules to beta read my work or about asking my writer-idols to breakfast so I can pick their brains about new-to-me subgenres, and my mother just gapes with astonishment.
Sometimes, I gape too.
When I practiced law, there wasn’t a lot of lawyers helping lawyers. In law school, there were times when I went to the stacks to retrieve a case, and I found the pages I needed had been cut out of the reporters. As a practicing litigator, one of my primary case strategies was not to assist my opponents; I learned to file briefs at times that made responses inconvenient, and I honed my ability to answer questions truthfully but without illumination.
As a librarian, however, my entire stock-in-trade was being helpful. I responded to questions from patrons. I anticipated questions from library users who had not yet entered my office. I worked with other librarians to collect resources for our community and to share those resources. (In fact, we had an active inter-library loan program that resulted in such strong ties that we all exchanged edible holiday presents in December and gained multiple pounds before each new year!)
Yesterday exemplified the way I’ve adapted those librarian skills to my writing. Yesterday morning, I spent 1.25 hours on the phone with an acquaintance, a woman I’ve known for years in my local Romance Writers of America chapter (and once ran into, completely by surprise, at the Tower of London!) She is considering a shift from a 100% traditional publishing career to a hybrid career, and she wanted some advice about the balance such a transition requires. Many of her questions were easy for me to answer, but some required me to think. A few questions required me to share relatively personal details — about my income, or my personal philosophy of success and failure, that sort of thing.
Then, last night, I reached out to a different writer acquaintance, a woman I’ve also known for years through RWA and because she and I briefly shared the same agent. Her day-job gives her the precise knowledge to analyze the accuracy of my small-town Christmas novella, Fly Me to the Moon. I emailed her and asked if she could read my draft and turn it around in a few short weeks. She responded within an hour and said she’d be happy to do so — she even offered to get the manuscript back to me in fourteen days.
What goes around, comes around. A rising tide lifts all boats. A bunch of other cliches.
Bottom line: I love helping other writers. And I’m incredibly grateful when other writers help me.
Who has helped you in your work (writing or otherwise!) lately?