You didn’t make a list?
When did we adults stop asking for what we need? Personally, I think independence is overrated as a hallmark of maturity. We writers can be especially stubborn in this regard, as if a helping hand might in some way diminish our creative accomplishment.
I beg to differ. Asking for support is a bold move, a signal to the universe (and okay, your family) that your course has been charted, you plan to reach your destination, and you are worthy of their wind in your sails.
Here are some of the many ways that asking for help has benefitted my writing.
Household chores. When you work, care for others, and write, there are times when something’s got to give. I’ve asked for help babysitting, chauffeuring, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundering, mowing, and more. Sometimes relief from one tiny chore is all I need to free up the energy to write.
Accountability. Before I had an agent or a publisher awaiting my material, I had several accountability partners through the years, whose sole purpose is to make sure I put words on the page. Like a labor coach, she’d hold me to goals I made before I lost my mind. It’s far superior to broadcasting word count on Facebook: your partner actually cares, since you are holding her accountable as well.
Brainstorming. Nailing a solid story concept is crucial to inspiring my devotion to a project. Characters I care about who are in a tight spot will turn my “daily grind” into an opportunity to show up and do right by them. I have several friends who will say yes when I need to toss around ideas.
Research. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. When I am struggling to obtain a piece of much-needed information and don’t even know how to ask Google for help, my Facebook friends and local research librarians are always willing to lend me a hand.
Travel. Internet and book research may point the way, but a time may come when you simply need to fill your senses with the settings in your book. Ask for support in this. With advance planning, this can be incorporated into family vacations, visits, or trips to help someone move.
Critique. We need fresh eyes. Period. Never feel bad asking another writer to read and provide feedback, if you are willing to do the same for her.
Unblocking. One time a friend and I were bemoaning our lack of progress and we decided to take turns sending each other a writing prompt. Each day we used the same prompt in our respective works and shared the (drastically different) results. Soon the creative juices were pumping again.
Education. Writers need education as legitimately as those who hope to excel in any other profession. If you’re queasy about how much to invest in a profession with such uncertain financial reward, ask other writers which programs delivered the best bang for their buck. Then spread the word among family members that “education vouchers” make great gifts!
Exercise. Everyone can use a walking partner or a fellow gym rat to get them moving. In fact, social accountability is sometimes the only thing that can pull us away from our computers. Both body and mind will thank you for seeking help.
Recipes. While funneling my creative energy into my work all day, it’s hard to come up with new ideas for healthy meals. Asking for recipes, and sharing yours, will make this piece of daily drudgery into a way to enliven the senses and make new friends.
Referrals. There comes a time when we are ready for developmental editing services, an agent, a blurb, or design services. Even if you toughed it out alone so far, eventually you will need to reach out for a hand up. If you practice early in your career, this step won’t be as hard!
Marketing. Despite the miracle of social media, individual reach only goes so far. Cultivate relationships in your genre that will inspire you and your friends to share and share alike. That following you worked so hard to find will make others happy that you asked.
You may have struck out with Santa, but it’s not too late to ask for help. As you set goals for 2018, think about the way others might be able to help you.
If you are willing to phone a friend, success might be closer than you think.
What are some of the ways your writing has benefitted from asking for help?
For those of you brave enough to try it, go ahead and ask for help with something right here in the comments.
Who knows—maybe the WITS community can hook you up with someone who can help?
*Note from Kathryn: Thank you to the WITS readers who have so faithfully looked for my monthly fourth-Monday posts these past four years! I’ll be moving to a quarterly schedule in 2018 so look for my next post on Tuesday, January 23!
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Kathryn Craft is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy, and a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft. Her chapter “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters” was included in the writing guide Author in Progress, from Writers Digest Books. Janice Gable Bashman’s interview with her, “How Structure Supports Meaning,” originally published in the 2017 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, has been reprinted in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, both from Writer’s Digest Books.