Why You Need a Support Group as Writer

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In a recent post on his website, author Max Florschutz wrote about the need for writers to have a support group. Writing, he rightly notes, comes with very real stress. To get through it, you need someone–or a few someones–who back you, not only as an author, but as the individual of high value you always are.

I could not agree with this sentiment more. It’s incredibly tough to know if we’re headed in the right direction. We sometimes need some good advice on how to organize, or to have someone talk us through early mornings when writing seems like a chore. A support group can tip us off on tools, prompts, techniques and events that can move us forward.

All of this matters. From my perspective, though, you should have people in your court for an entirely different reason than overcoming technical anxieties and hurdles–to validate writing as a profession. 

All too often, what’s most stressful about writing isn’t figuring out where to send queries or editing a draft (again). It’s not figuring out how to fix plot holes or trying to get words on the page while family life divides your attention. What messes with your head the most is fighting the negative connotations being a writer has, the idea that it is “barely” a job or isn’t serious work.

We tend to get a sense of identity from our jobs, like it or not. Without a support group or individuals who can reassure you, it’s all too easy to wonder who you are or where you fit into the big picture. Without people to counter the feedback that questions your art, it’s simple to think that maybe you’re making a mistake in creating characters and worlds, or that you’re foolish for not doing other work.

And if you think that you’re foolish for writing or that there’s a better path, then guess how high the likelihood is that you’ll quit.

Whether you tap your spouse, find a writer’s group online or toss your writing at neighbors, don’t underestimate the power of finding people to walk your writing journey with you. As Florschutz points out, your support people don’t have to be other writers. They can be anyone who will hear out your dreams, be real with you and lift you up. Commit to finding them and the work will be not only technically easier, but far more enjoyable, too.

Why Standup Comedians Are the Best Writing Teachers Ever

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For a while now, I’ve been indulging in standup comedy online during my teeny bits of free time. (Netflix specials are fun, as are the late night shows.) If you’re a writer who doesn’t do the same, I highly encourage you to start.

First, good standup inevitably gets you in a better mood. And I’m convinced that you do your best writing when you are relaxed and happy. Even if you choose to write on a darker theme, there’s a clarity and ease that comes from approaching the theme without stress and worry.

But beyond helping you let go of your troubles for a while, standup comedians are also some of the best storytellers in the world. They have perfected the art of making tales engaging yet brief, and they understand the art of delivering their communication in ways that are easy to understand.

What really makes their efforts work, in my opinion, is that standup comedians are so beautifully aware of social constructs and expectations. They find dozens of instances in everyday life when people have challenged those constructs or gotten into sticky situations with them. Then they use the audience’s understanding of those violations or expectations to connect and get laughs. Through this process, they also relate the stories in a honest, often almost crude way. Their analogies or metaphors have a sense of poetry and rhythm, but they also can be so out of the box that those in the audience are happy that what the comedian is saying is novel. Those who listen appreciate that the comedian takes the risk of putting what is or could be considered taboo all out front in the open.

So it’s not that standup comedians are funny. It’s that they understand more deeply why something is funny. And if you start dissecting that a little bit as a writer, you start to see how people really work within the immediate culture. All of the biases and ways individuals and groups interact and influence each other are laid bare. And once that happens, it’s much easier not only to imagine viable situational plots, but also to establish characterizations based on expected behaviors and how characters adhere to or violate those norms. And on some level, you also gain a sense of how to balance kernels of truth against what others might see as offensive.

So next time you find yourself bashing your head against writer’s block, step back for a moment. Pop some popcorn. Go find a comedy show that appeals to your sense of humor. Take some relief in watching a great storyteller on their feet. Think about all the buttons they are hitting and understand that those strikes are part of an intentional, carefully scripted strategy, rather than the result of a spontaneous bit of luck and personality. And from there, it’s just a matter of choosing which buttons to line up for a story all your own.