Writing is a solitary pursuit. It is not something done in a group. It is long hours hunched over the keyboard or notepad. It’s writing, rewriting and fine tuning. But still, even for the most reclusive, having a posse of writers or friends that get you and your work can be an excellent way to breathe life into your writing and your motivation.
Here are the top 5 reasons I have a posse and why I think every writer should:
To encourage one another to take risks
A good posse will encourage you to step into areas you may not have considered. There have been many pivotal points in my writing career when I thought I could not undertake something new, but I did anyway through the encouragement of my posse. For example, I might not have published my first book if one of my fellow writers hadn’t suggested we co-author it together. She had already published a non-fiction book of that same genre earlier and thought it would be fun to collaborate on a second book with me. Another time, while working as a news correspondent for a regional paper, my editor contacted me asking if I’d like to contribute a regular column to the paper. At first, I balked at the idea. Did I really have what it takes to go from reporting the news to writing a column on the life and happenings in my area? Was I brave enough to have my photograph published with my work? My posse thought so. With their encouragement, I took the position and ended up penning some of my best articles of that year.
In much the same way, I encourage others in my posse to try their hand at short stories and longer fiction. We brainstorm over technical aspects of their books and I offer encouragement as they navigate their way through the many differences between non-fiction writing, short stories and historical fiction. The result has been several completed novels and several interested publishers.
To offer a constructive critique
Whether it’s creating content for social media or the next great American novel, good writing pulls from all our common experiences as human beings. Our writing needs to touch places of deep vulnerability in order to be impactful enough to stick in a reader’s mind. A good posse will ask the questions you might be afraid to answer. They can help you define a character’s traits or tell you if the hero is too predictable. One of the greatest benefits of having a posse of writers in your life is to help determine how bad or good an idea might be for a story or plot twist. Often when I am hashing out an idea for a short story and I think it will work for different audiences, I run it past my posse to see if it has legs. In one reading of my work, a character was about to have an exchange with her disapproving father. After the reading, my posse advised me to have the character pet the cat or show some form of emotion because she came off as cold and distant which made her hard to relate to. The cat never made it into the final draft, but the input helped me soften the edges of the character in ways I hadn’t previously seen as necessary to her character.
To help fill the well – or void when your output has been high
When writing is your top priority each day, it is easy to become drained. Cranking out high-quality prose and churning up ideas for new blog posts and then carefully editing and revising can drain the well spring of ideas and fresh concepts. Getting together with other writers to have lunch, visit a museum or go out for a couple drinks can be a wonderful way to add some new material to your mind. Writers have a unique way of looking at life. They are keen observers. A few hours out in public absorbing people, sights and experiences will spark the genius in each of you, even if you never talk about your work or what you are writing.
To talk shop
Because the writing life is so isolating, sometimes we just need to vent. The non-writers in your life may not be able to understand why you are so upset that the editor cut one third of your article without so much as note of apology or phone call to explain. Most people don’t have to chase their clients for payment or justify their rates as if we should be willing to write for free. Lots of times the non-writers in our lives can’t understand why we don’t just get a regular job so we don’t have to deal with these issues. Your posse, on the other hand, will never tell you that. They know the life – it’s benefits and its downsides — and they live it, too.
To share opportunities
This is one area where having a posse is most beneficial. Every writer I know has been a great help to me in sharing opportunities and knowledge. Whether it’s an opening at a newspaper, a publishing company that is looking for submissions, or a highly successful web-based business who is willing to share projects they don’t specialize in, the writers in my posse truly have my back and I theirs. You see, once you have a posse and you know the caliber of their work, it becomes easy to collaborate. Not every project I come across fits my interest or ability. When I have discovered an avenue or potential income stream that doesn’t fit my needs, I have a posse with whom I can share opportunities. I am happy to refer them, and their success reflects well on me professionally.
An opportunity recently came to me from a content publisher who was bidding a job for a local client. The client had an additional project the publisher was not interested in pursuing, and they shared my name and contact information as a potential subject expert. That connection resulted in a client meeting and future work that would last me over a year.
Do you have a writer’s posse? If not, why not? The opportunity to give and receive support and encouragement, constructive criticism and share ideas with people who know your craft is invaluable and only helps you to grow as a writer and a professional.