Pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and get comfy. I’d like to talk about kindness in the writing community. I don’t mean retweeting to give each other a boost or following a stranger back to be courteous. I’m talking about profound kindness that settles in your chest and warms you on cold, lonely days.
As writers, we are accustomed to hearing stories of crushed hopes, long shots, and tales of glorious success. We lean in to listen to them all. Stories of rejection make us feel less alone. We warm our hands over the heat generated by other writers’ victories. Each story reminds us we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
But knowing we aren’t alone isn’t enough to sustain us. We crave connection to other writers. We long for someone to acknowledge that we are out there doing this hard work, for someone to nod in our direction and tell us to keep going.
In search of literary fellowship, I’ve stumbled into several writing communities over the years. The kindness that greeted me each time is the fuel that sustains me on my writing journey. I’m about to point fingers and name names, so buckle up.
First, I’m looking at you, Nancy Johnson, my writing soulmate and dear friend. Nancy held my hand as I queried. She talked me through the anxiety of waiting, waiting, waiting, while my book was on submission. But two things in particular that she did for me inspired me to keep going, and I’m calling her out on both of them.
I asked my agent to wait until I had a collection of rejections from editors before sharing them with me instead of sending them piecemeal. As a result, she sent the first batch of passes to me in one long email, as I had requested. I read through them one after another. They weren’t awful. They included some lovely compliments, but they all ended the same way: rejection. I felt nauseous.
I forwarded the letters to Nancy so we could discuss them. She promptly called and left me a voicemail in which she strung all the kind things the editors had written into the loveliest blurb about my book. My novel sounded incredible! I have listened to that voicemail more times than I care to admit. It made me feel good about my writing again.
Later, as more rejections trickled in, Nancy stepped up with another thoughtful gift. “I know you’re doubting yourself right now, but it’s okay,” she told me as the wait began to crush me. “I got this. I believe in you enough for both of us.”
The thing is, I believe in Nancy just as much as she believes in me. So, when she offered to take up my burden, I let her. I can’t explain why, but it made me feel better. As I trusted her to believe in me, I was able to shake off the negative feelings and have faith in my writing again. I believed because Nancy believed.
Next up, I’m pointing at you, Milo Todd. [Read more…]