Somebody to Lean On

I hope the title makes you all start swaying and singing, too. No one should be doing karaoke alone. :razz: (C’mon, I wanna hear ya now, “We all need, somebody to lean on…”)

This writing gig is a tough journey. I tend to be pretty independent, but a decade of doing this has proven — again and again — that this isn’t a career path I’d want to travel without a support system. That support system doesn’t have to traipse around with me in my daily life — virtual pals are great, too — although it’s nice to have both. What it does have to be is genuine. (I think we all know the sting of thinking someone’s a friend because they seem nice on the surface, only to find they’ve been talking about us behind our backs, feeling resentful when things are going our way or, even worse, gleeful when things aren’t.) But when you find someone truly supportive, I don’t think even the best writing tool available on Amazon is more effective at helping us keep working through those rough patches.

When I first began taking fiction writing seriously, my only support system was my family — specifically, my husband. (My son was too little back then to do anything other than shred my manuscript pages or, occasionally, chew on one.) I didn’t tell my parents, my husband’s parents or even my brother that I was working on a novel until after I’d finished writing by hand the first draft and typing it up. Once they knew, they were incredibly supportive, especially my husband’s mom, who must have been the world’s most wonderful mother-in-law. (She read and gave me feedback on THREE different drafts of my first dreadful, deservedly unpublished manuscript! And then the dear woman read my second manuscript. And my third. And my fourth. And half of According to Jane before she got too ill to continue…) My brother, who couldn’t be more of a macho-cool guy and a reader of only thrillers, surprised me by asking to read many of my early romance, chick-lit and women’s fiction efforts, too. My son, who is not allowed to read my books yet (!!), learned to give Mommy time to write uninterrupted and, when that failed, my husband — a god amongst men some days — learned that an evening of bonding (out of the house) with his son was right up there chocolate, roses and whispered sweet nothings.

But strong support on the homefront, while priceless, wasn’t the only kind I knew I needed. I somehow lucked into getting involved in the Chicago-North RWA chapter, and that branched out into meeting other aspiring writers online and, eventually, in person, from all around the world. This month marks eight years that I’ve been an RWA member, and I know I wouldn’t have become a published writer without the insight, encouragement and astute critiquing of my CPs. More than that, I wouldn’t have survived years of rejections or the whirlwind of release days and promo without the friends in my life — online and off — who’ve been there to talk me out of torching a problematic proposal in the fireplace, distract me from reading negative reviews with the promise of Almond Joy martinis or email me links to helpful articles or blog posts when they know it’ll give me valuable information.

And, sometimes, these awesome people even invite me to join their fabulous group blog. ;-)

What about you? Who do you call on when, um, you need a hand? (Cue the music again…start swaying…) Who can you lean on? Please share! And, in honor of this Halloween weekend, I’m giving away two books to one commenter. (I’ll draw the winner’s name Monday morning and post it in the comments below.) The first book — because it’s scary! — is Shannon K. Butcher’s romantic suspense, No Escape. And the second book — because it’s got a fun Halloween party in it! — is a signed copy of my new novel, Friday Mornings at Nine.

Good luck, and happy trick-or-treating, everyone!

About Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant is a chocolate addict, a music junkie and the USA TODAY bestselling author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and A SUMMER IN EUROPE (2011), all from Kensington Books, as well as a number of light romantic comedies, including THE SWEET TEMPTATIONS COLLECTION (2013) and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH (2013). Her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called THE ROAD TO YOU -- was just released in October 2013!
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33 Responses to Somebody to Lean On

  1. Amy Atwell says:

    Great topic, Marilyn! I agree that writers need to develop support networks with other writers. Our families love us, but I’m not sure they always understand our muses. I’m lousy about attending live meetings, so I don’t belong to any local writer groups, but I more than make up for it with a large network of online friends. With Yahoo groups, Chatzy, Facebook, Skype and the good ol’ telephone, I’m always able to reach out. And thank heavens for the talented writers at WritingGIAM for being the best friends an author could ask for.

    • Amy, I have heard GREAT things about your GIAM group!! And I very much agree that the virtual world is an amazing place to connect with kindred spirits. I’m glad you’ve found such wonderful groups online. ;)

  2. Marilyn, when I started writing really seriously, I was living in the middle on nowhere, and was the only English-speaking woman in my town. RWA was my lifeline to sanity, and not just writing-related. I made friends I’ve kept to this day, started group blogs with them ;) and even managed to make the very long-haul flight to meet with them face-to-face. To my delight, every person I’ve met in person has been just as nice or nicer than they were online. There really is an honesty in the communications between writers that is special, genuine, and that much-needed lifeline in times of trouble.

    • Michelle, I have been in situations often enough where I felt no one was speaking my language…it’s only happened literally a few times, though ;). I know I’d definitely gravitate toward an online community if I lived abroad. As for finally meeting in person the wonderful writers I’ve met online, I felt the same way you did!! Everyone I liked so much in the virtual world was even kinder in person — present company included!

  3. Misty Evans says:

    Wonderful post, Marilyn! Your hubby sounds like a great guy, and your other family members must be very proud of you!

    When I wrote my first couple of novels, I only had a couple of friends and my hubby suppoting me, and at that point, that was all I needed. Once I had an agent, she recommended I join RWA. Boy, did that help me grow my support system! I’ve made some really good friends through different groups, and now I live in SW Florida, close enough to attend SWFRW meetings. Another great group with supportive members.

    There were definitely times in my early writing days when I couldn’t pull up my own boot straps after certain rejections. My support peeps did it for me. I’m very grateful for all the friends, family and fellow writers who give me support everyday.

    • I hear you, Misty!! I know there are people who somehow manage to write their early novels and keep going through rejections and those endless wait periods without a close-knit writing community (in person or online) beside them, but I truly don’t know how… I’m so glad you’ve had supportive peeps on your journey as well!

  4. LaDonna says:

    Fabulous post, Marilyn! :smile: Reading your story took me back to those early days, because there’s some similiarities here. I, too, didn’t tell anyone that I was writing other than my hubby at first. I wrote in longhand while the girls played, and typed on an old typewriter after those first drafts were done. I eventually joined RWA and remember the first conference I attended… it so overwhelmed me to find “others” like me that it moved me to tears after, just thinking about it. I’d found “my people!” Hallelua!

    Joining Magical connected me with all of you lovely ladies! A fabulous journey of watching everyone grow… just love it. On the homefront, my two girls and hubby are amazing in their support. And where would we all be without the “soul friends” who journey with us; that get us no matter what? All of these are priceless!

    • LaD~ohhh, thank you! And I’m so glad I’m not alone in having written a first novel longhand ;) . BTW, I had the same reaction you did while attending my first writing conference: “I’m not the only one like this?! Thank God…” LOL!

  5. Edie Ramer says:

    Marilyn, my local group is a great support (and we’ve been meeting more often now, which I love). But it’s the writer friends that I’ve met online — too many to list here — who have made the difference for me. Helped me get through the bad and celebrated the good. I treasure all of them. And you’re included!

  6. Excellent topic and one I’ve been bemoaning the last 24 hours!

    I have some wonderful writing friends. A couple close but most I’ve made online or in RWA chapter memberships. Margaret is ALWAYS here for me, as is Shayla. My GIAM group is awesome beyond words.

    Being a writer is a lonely job with lots of rejections. Without others to lean on, cry to, bitch to, laugh with…it’d be not only lonely but maybe impossible (for me, at least)

    • Cyndi~I agree…it would be nearly impossible for me, too… And it’s interesting because, in other areas of my life and with previous careers, that wasn’t so much the case. It was *nice* to have friends or colleagues who understood what I was going through, but I didn’t *need* it in the same essential way I’ve felt with the writing life. Perhaps because so much of our soul is tied up with our stories, every bump in the road is like a rollercoaster dip — the highs so strange and euphoric, the lows so heartbreaking and hard to explain to anyone not acquainted with this journey.

  7. Robin says:

    I’d be lost without the online and RWA friendships I’ve made! When I started writing I never imagined the wonderful friends I’d make along the way, and I’m so very thankful for them! Thanks for this great post, Marilyn! You never fail to strike a chord with me, and your friendship is a blessing.

    Happy weekend and Happy Halloween to everyone here at Magical Musings!

    • Robin~your friendship is a blessing to me, too! When I finaled in the GH in 2007 and was told that it would be “a good idea” if I started blogging, I was the world’s biggest skeptic… What would I say? Would anyone care? Why??! THEN I started to actually get to know the people behind the blogs I admired and the ones who made time to visit me, and I’m so grateful to you and to the wonderful friends I’ve made. Thank you. :)

  8. Mary Jo says:

    Marilyn,

    I’ve been blessed with a husband who’s believed in me even when I wasn’t sure of myself, a supportive family, and the greatest circle of forever friends–a few of whom love being BETA readers for me. When I found RWA and WisRWA this group expanded and now I have dear friends who help me brainstorm, work through scenes, and celebrate or offer sympathy when those ‘things’ happen in writing.

    This was such a great topic. Thank you.

    • Mary Jo~thank YOU for taking the time to stop by! I’m so glad you have that support network beside you — there’s nothing like it, is there?! My husband, too, was really amazing. He just took a leap of faith and encouraged me to go to my first big writing conference, certain that I’d find out there if this path was the one I really needed to take. And he was right…I *did* find out, and it *was* the path. I’ll always be grateful he had that insight, even before I was ready to believe in it myself. ;)

  9. Jane says:

    I’m quite close to two of my cousins and I always seek their advice about my job and personal issues. Both of them are a few years older than me and I trust their judgment based on their experience.

    • Jane~You’re lucky! I always wished for that! I’m the oldest sibling and the eldest of the cousins (by at least 7 years). It’s been really fun and gratifying getting to help some of the younger family members through various situations, but I would have loved to turn to a sibling or cousin for advice, if they’d experienced something before me! :razz:

  10. Liz Kreger says:

    Great topic, Marilyn. And ever so true. What would we do without our support group. Writing is such a solitary profession that you need those around you to understand what you’re going through and what you need to get it done. My husband … while not the most helpful, is supportive and knows exactly when to stay out of my way. There’s something about a firmly closed office door that gets his attention. :lol:

    My crit group has been incredibly supportive throughout my writing career and more. Being able to attend conferences with like minded people is invaluable … not to say lots of fun. Writing is doable without that … but I really don’t want to find out.

    • Thanks, Liz! And LOL about your husband having learned to stay out of your way… ;) I think that’s a VERY important skill for a spouse — even if we have to teach them to recognize the “signal” — i.e., that closed door!! Glad you have a great crit group, too! They’re lifesavers…

  11. great blog topic, marilyn! i’m the pillar everyone comes to in my family so it’s kind of hard for me to show any cracks with them. especially when it’s writing related because they don’t get it. hubby gets it, but there is nothing like my gf’s i have met through rwa and online. my dearest and closest friends are writers. i would be lost without them.

    • Thanks, Karin. ;) Most of my closest friends are writers, too, and the ones who aren’t have been with me through so many years and stages that they know almost as much about publishing as I do — LOL.

  12. Ok, thanks a lot – now I’ve got that song stuck in my head! :)

    Since I moved back from Arizona, there’s not really anybody local that I can say is all that supportive of my writing, but I do have my blog, email, & internet writer friends who are my writing life support at times.

    By the way, I LOVED “According to Jane” and have gone around recommending it. :)

    • Sorry about the song, Kate!!! (I know, it’s my own darned fault for referencing it, but I can’t get it out of my head either…LOL.) I really think the Internet can be a lifeline when people around us in real life don’t understand. I’m so glad you have a strong online community supporting you. And THANK YOU (!!!) for recommending JANE! {hug :razz: }

  13. Mariska says:

    Since i’m the eldest in my family, my sisters and brother always come to me :)
    and if i will come to my DH to lean on. even i will come to my 4 yos son, that can make me smile and forget about the problem.

    • Mariska~I love that you turn to your 4-year-old son for smiles sometimes! I don’t think there’s any connection more powerful than the one between parent and child. Being with those people we love is such a great reminder that we matter very much to those close to us… Hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend together!

  14. Carrie Lofty says:

    Maybe other people have experienced this, but I find I have differing levels of support. My husband and my critique partner are my daily contacts, followed by my mom and a close friend/writing partner, and then various groups of friends online and in person. It may sound a little utilitarian to say that they different roles or functions, but that’s how it’s shaken down for me. I socialize with some and bitch about the business with others, but the number of people who see a beta manuscript, for example, are no more than one or two. I suspect I’m on similar lists of go-to and occasional friends, which is probably for the best because we’d all get burnt out being each other’s everythings :)

    PS — on a personal note, I still remember the first time I met you, Marilyn, when I came to my first Chicago North meeting. You’d just won the Golden Heart and you were so welcoming. Such a special memory for me!

    • Aww, Carrie!! I remember that meeting very well, too. I was delighted you joined the chapter and am really glad you stayed. We’ve both had lots of exciting things happen since then. ;)

      And, yes, I know exactly what you mean about varying levels of support. I read something once about how our degree of happiness correlates directly to how well our experiences match up to our expectations. For me, I’ve found that to be true within the industry and with the people in it. I don’t expect everyone I meet to be supportive or to have the time or interest to read or critique my writing. Most often, I only expect other writers to be professional in public/online and honest if they’re sharing information. So, really, many people exceed my expectations all the time, which keeps me feeling optimistic (!!) and grateful…

      But, like you said, there are those people we’re in contact with a lot more often than others and those few we entrust to give us serious feedback or those we know we can share our deepest feelings with. Finding them is a treasure. :razz:

  15. Laurie G says:

    I lean on my 27 yo daughter. She’s an amazingly mature person whom I respect. When I’m having a bad day I call her and she always listens and helps me put the problem in the proper perspective.

    • Laurie, how wonderful to have a daughter you can talk to like that! You must have been a fantastic mom and brought her up very well to have that kind of relationship. :)

  16. What a wonderful topic, Marilyn–

    When I think about who I lean on with respect to writing, I always imagine it’s going to be small, but then I start listing it and it gets much longer than I expected.

    I’m lucky in that I have a wonderfully supportive husband and kids (even though they sometimes still forget that when hands are on keyboard and eyes are fixed straight ahead, they should, you know, WAIT to talk to me… :roll: ) And I was thinking about it, too, the other day– it’s really amazing to me that my kids will have never known me as anything but a writer. (And, well, Mom, but that goes without saying.) But the idea that a creative endeavor like writing is what their mom has done ever since they can remember is I think huge for me in terms of the support around here. They never had to readjust their thinking that Mom was doing something “weird” or out of the ordinary with respect to her day job. I think it’s a tremendous gift that I’ve given them.

    But back to support, I’m very lucky in that RWA provided me with a huge support network in the early days and that the small groups with which I surround myself these days are almost all made up of people who I met through RWA with one exception: my critique partner. She and I have known each other for over ten years and have been CPs nearly as long. We did, however, meet via the Internet: on a Buffy fanboard. We discovered we both loved writing and we both wanted to pursue it a bit more seriously, so we started critiquing each other’s work and we’re still doing it, to this day.

    • Barb, how fabulous that you found such a wonderful CP right away and that you’re still helping each other a decade later!!

      It’s funny — I smiled when I read what you wrote about your kids always seeing you pursuing this creative endeavor…that they never had to readjust to your doing something “weird” ;) . I’m really happy about that in our house, too! My son can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, but he does remember a time before I was published. He watched me work through a lot of different stages…contest wins, signing with an agent, submission rejections (and more rejections — LOL) and, finally, a sale. Then all the stuff since with book releases and promo. He *loves* coming with me to bookstores to sign stock! I’m really glad he’s been in on it from the beginning because he’s seen the reality — the joy of it but, also, all the work of getting there.

  17. Thanks so much to *everyone* for all of your wonderful comments!
    I did the random drawing this morning and the winner of Shannon’s book and mine is…ArkansasCyndi :) . Congrats!! Please email me at MarilynBrant AT Gmail DOT Com with the address you’d like me to mail them to this week.
    Hope you all had a fun Halloween weekend! I ate too much chocolate, but what are holidays for, right?!

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