For a long time, I wrote alone.
I had family. Friends. A partner. But the part of me liked to think myself a writer stood unnoticed and solitary behind the me that all those people knew.
There were lots of reasons for that separation of self. I thought, perhaps, people would view me differently if I they read the thoughts and emotions I reserved for spilling out on paper. I thought, by their knowing, a huge weight of expectation would drag me into immobility. I thought, given my chronic inability to finish anything, they’d look on each new project knowing its fate from the first few words. I limped along, craving some recognition, some support, wavering on the brink but never quite making that final leap of faith.
Sometimes, I’d try diving in the deep end, throwing myself into NaNoWriMo or other online communities where no one knew me and, if the inevitable happened and a project petered out or life got in the way, there was no recompense to be made. These forays were always short-lived as the inevitable did, indeed, happen.
I’m not really sure when that started to change, but I know who changed it. One friend took an interest while at university. We both finished our studies, he moved away, but we still spoke almost every day. He told me his highs and lows as he made his games, and slowly I began to open up to him about my writing. He listened as I tried and failed to make my writing fulfil everything I wanted it to be, and he was there for the light-bulb moment when I realised what I wanted was not what I needed. And he has been there ever since.
That person is still my creative rock, my first and last port of call. But there was yet a little worm of frustration deep inside me. He is my friend, but my best friend, my partner, still wasn’t taking any notice. We’d argue about it: I wanted him to want to read my work, not to have to pester him to take an interest. I love my partner but he doesn’t always think about these things.
From that frustration grew rebellion. If he wasn’t going to pay attention, I’d find it elsewhere. I took to Twitter, where my secret alter-ego could run free, and Twitter led me to a group of critiquing partners.
I was nervous to post at first. I wrote and deleted my submission several times, wondering if I’d be able to commit or keep up, or how I would handle a critique. My WIP still felt like a baby, and I wanted to wrap it in soft cotton wool.
I shouldn’t have worried. Every single person, down to a tweet and an email, has been wonderful.
Suddenly, I was not alone. Suddenly, a whole world opened up, filled with supportive, like-minded people who gave me the confidence to finally say: I am a writer.
If I could send past-me a message from the future, and indeed anyone out there in the wild blue yonder reading this post, it would be: Do Not Be Afraid.
Sometimes the writing community can be intimidating and competitive, but this is deeply overshadowed by the enormous amount of love also going round. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow writers. Don’t be afraid to call yourself a writer. We’ve all done the bravest thing possible – picking up that pen, tapping at that keyboard – and that makes us all equal.
Some days writing can be like squeezing blood from a stone, and everything you write seems like shit, but I promise it will get better, and I promise there are people out there who can help show you that.
If you need a critique, a review, a cheerleader, or just a friend, feel free to drop me a line. I know what it’s like write alone, but now you don’t have to.