There was a time not too long ago that I felt threatened when friends of mine shared in the hobbies that I participated in. That included photography, playing guitar and most especially writing. I feared that they'd be better than me and that their talent would negate mine. I wanted to be the only writer in my life, something I now realize is not only absurd and selfish but totally counterintuitive to my craft.
Quite simply, writers need other writers because writers write. As Thomas C. Foster said in How To Read Literature Like a Professor, "All literature grows out of other literature." We write what we know both stylistically and in regards to content. This means that by reading the work of Ernest Hemingway, John Green and local journalists you are actually working on your writing. If you avoid reading what others have written for fear of feelings of inferiority you are depriving yourself of the chance to ever improve.
By reading the work of other writers and frequently conversing with them I've been able to cultivate my style, improve my diction, buff out my ideas and find motivation. Take for example my correspondence with Tyler Knott Gregson. I started reading Tyler's poetry a little over two years ago. Beforehand I had little interest in reading poetry and absolutely no interest in writing it. All of that changed after a few months of reading Tyler's work. I became fascinated with how he made even the most simple occurrences in life seem magical and I decided to try writing poetry for myself. In my earliest pieces I tried to imitate Tyler's style but I soon found my own. (These days I use a lot of repetition and alliteration.) It's probably true that I would not be writing poetry if not for Tyler Knott Gregson but more importantly, he inspired me to write through every changing season in life. I've corresponded with Tyler via email multiple times. He is genuinely kind and gives ardent replies. On one occasion he advised me to "keep writing, no matter what," and as simple as it is, it's stuck with me. He is a published author and widely appreciated on Instagram and other social media. He knows what it's like to be criticized by editors as well as those with little knowledge of what it's like to write for themselves and he was kind enough to share a bit of inspiration with me. His words very well may be what helps me to get a volume of poetry published.
Just like musicians get together to jam and experiment with new sounds, so should writers. Sharing your work with other writers can help you figure out what sucks and what works, what you like verses what others like. It also makes writing more fun (and somewhat easier). Aside from catching grammatical or punctual errors, a friend that writes can help you solidify ideas, further a plot-line and sometimes persuade you to push boundaries.
My friend Danielle and I have known each other for 13 years and we both adore writing. Since both of us are contributing writers for Fresh U, we frequently share article ideas and bemoan writer's block. I turn to her and my friend Devon (who is pursuing a career as a writer) when I can't figure out where I want my posts to go or even what I should write about in the first place. I've found that they can articulate flaws in my writing in a way that non-writers often can't, ("You need to use stronger verbiage and add a comma," as opposed to, "That doesn't sound good.") just like musicians can more easily tell you what's wrong with a piece of music than an untrained ear can.
If you're lucky enough to have a community of writers, big or small, in person or online, you will quickly come to understand that fellow writers will act as the best hype-men you could ever dream of. We know what it's like to not be able to find the words you so desperately search for. We know what it's like to hate the poem, the essay, the entire novel you put an incredible amount of effort into. We know what it's like to be afraid of what your readers will think. We know what it feels like to find someone that truly understands how terrible and wonderful it is to be a writer. We are passionate almost to a fault and that is why when we find another writer in need of love, we give it to them, and we find others that will give it to them. This means we read their work and tell them what we like about it as well as what we don't. This means we share their work all over social media and with our friends and family (if that's what they wish). This means we keep up with them and their work and are truly happy when they achieve their definition of success.
These concepts are the foundation of a truth that was initially hard for me to accept: I need other writers. I need friends that are writers because they make me and my work better. I need strangers that are writers because they make me and my work better. Our common zeal for words is the basis of our triumphs and our pitfalls. We are the word magicians. We are the creators of worlds, but we cannot do it alone. If you are a writer, I urge you to find other writers because Ernest Hemingway was right in saying, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down [at a typewriter] and bleed." We might as well bleed together.
This post is dedicated to Mitchell, Danielle, Devon, Katrina, Emleigh, Connor O., and Annelle. May we forever find joy in words.
Lead Image Credit: Eric Bailey via Pexels