Caring for Writers

Caring for Writers

When Holly asked me to write a post about caring for writers, I scoffed a little, internally, because a) I do not have the market cornered and b) nothing I do could in any way be considered rocket science. It really boils down to five things:

  1. read their work;

  2. give them your honest feedback and tell them how their work has impacted you;

  3. share their work;

  4. encourage them in their work;

  5. pray for them and their work.

If you can be relatively consistent in those five areas, I can pretty much guarantee that any writers you know will feel well cared for.

Read their work

This may seem blindingly obvious, but if they're putting their work out there, whether it be a blog post, an article, or a book, they want people to read it. If you care about a writer and believe that their voice is important, read their work. You may not be able to read it the instant it's published, but when they release something, make a point of reading it. I'm incredibly lucky to know an amazing bunch of writers, so I get to spend a lot of my time reading what my friends have written. And here's the thing: they don't all write in my favourite genres or on my favourite topics, but I learn something from each of them and I genuinely believe in them, so I read their work.

Give them your honest feedback

After you've read it - or maybe even as you're reading it - tell them what you think! Did you enjoy it? Did it challenge you? Did it make you look at the subject in a new way? Did you think the piece was missing something? Did you cheer for a particular character? Are you mad about another character's actions? Let them know. I've told friends that their work made me cheer, cry, start new habits, pick up old ones, etc. When a friend asked me to proofread her book proposal, I pointed out a couple areas that would benefit from additional clarification and then added my commentary to the rest of the document - all the things I would have said to her as I was reading if she'd been in the room with me. John Graeber, who, incidentally, you should be reading, tweeted this the other day, "Despite appearances, writers wrestle with insecurity and self doubt just as much, if not more so, than most people. And if you have the thought to send a kind word about a piece you liked, you can make a writer’s whole damn day by doing so."

Share their work

I think my favourite thing to do on social media other than talking with my writer friends is sharing their work. As I said above, I think my friends are brilliant, that they're great writers, and that everyone should read their stuff. So if you follow me on social media, you'll see a ton of tweets and retweets and Facebook posts about the latest things my friends have written. There's also a decent chance that a piece will make my #QuotidianBeauty list.* I join their launch teams when they're releasing books. I tell my in-person friends about them and their writing. When I get asked for recommended reading on a certain topic, if my friends have written about it, you better believe that I'll include their work in my recommendations. I'm a better person for reading my friends' work and I want my non-writer friends and my social media followers to learn, be challenged, and grow because of it, too.

Encourage them in their work

This one is pretty self-explanatory. But as John tweeted, "writers wrestle with insecurity and self doubt just as much, if not more so, than most people." So in addition to giving them feedback and sharing their writing, tell them why you think their voices matter. What's your favourite thing about their writing voice or style? Who do you think their writing benefits? Remind them that they are gifted and talented and have a unique perspective.

I frequently find myself telling my friends that as a reader, I need them to bring the entirety of their lived experience and perspective to their writing because that's a massive part of what makes their writing so valuable to me. I don't want them to lop off parts of themselves to fit into a neat, tidy, easily marketable box. Remind the perfectionists that it doesn't have to be perfect. Remind the ones struggling while writing the hard, complex pieces that we need writers who will help us wrestle with hard, complex things, not ones who'll wrap everything up with a bow and demand nothing of us. Remind the ones writing fun fiction that there's immense value in that and not everything has to be dark or heavy. Remind them that every bit of beauty added to the world is worthwhile.

Tell them why you want them to keep writing.

Pray for them and their work

I'm going to be honest: if you ignored the previous four steps and all you did was pray for the writers in your life, tell them you're praying for them, and ask them what you can be praying about, specifically, I'm pretty sure that you'd be good. (But don't ignore the previous four steps.)

Here's why.

In November 2017, I posted the following in the Christ and Pop Culture members' forum:
"On Fridays, I pray for writers because as a group, writers have had more impact on my life than any other bunch of people and I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too much good writing.
So, writers of CaPC, what can I be praying about for you? ...I'll take any and all requests."

Up until that point, I'd been praying for specific friends who'd mentioned projects they were working on, plus a couple writers I follow on Twitter who'd asked their followers to be praying. I appreciated what the writers of the group were doing and I believe in the power of prayer, so praying for them and their work seemed only logical, a way of telling them I valued their work and wanted to read more of it.

The responses floored me. It was like they couldn't believe anyone was asking. They kept thanking me and saying how kind, sweet, lovely, and awesome I was, which I really didn't understand. As I said in response to a couple compliments, "I really like having specific things to pray for rather than just generic one size fits all kinda prayers. I wasn't really expecting so many people to be touched by me asking for their specifics."

One dear friend explained, "I think you'll find that a lot of writers don't have people ask how they can pray for their writing. It doesn't seem to occur to people, which is understandable. But when it does, it means a lot!"

Y'all. Reread that last paragraph. It broke my heart. And in case the reactions in the thread hadn't confirmed that it does, in fact, mean a lot, my friend Ben Fort tweeted this: "If you're on the fence about becoming a @christandpc member, our Member's Forum basically has a volunteer Writer's Chaplain in @andihumphries who helps care for our angsty writer souls. Best place on the internet."

Three months of regular(ish) Friday check-ins on that original post, following up on previous requests and asking for new ones, and in his mind (and a couple others who liked/replied to the tweet), it had become a selling point for the group.

It still boggles my mind, but week after week, these writers trust me with their prayer requests. And the requests quickly expanded to cover so much more than just their writing. My favourites may be the comments that start with, "I know it's not Friday, but...", because sometimes there are things that just can't wait until Friday. In fact, just after I finished writing this post on a Monday, there were a couple requests posted. I am continually honoured and humbled by the parts of their lives they trust me with.

Sometimes it feels selfish to pray about articles and columns and books that I want to read. But I've seen time and again over the last 15 months just how much it means to these writers that I pray for them and their work. And holding a book in your hands that you've been praying about since the author started writing it is a pretty incredible feeling. I put "volunteer writers' chaplain" in my Twitter bio because it's one of the biggest compliments I've been paid.

It’s really so very simple to care for the writers in your life. Show them that you’re invested in them and their work. Celebrate them. Because there really is no such thing as too much good writing.

*As a way to fight back against how bleak and hard 2018 felt, early in January, I started listing 3 (or more) moments or things of beauty that I've found each day on Twitter, using #QuotidianBeauty. Basically, what you get when you follow me on Twitter is me telling you to read my friends’ work and #QuotidianBeauty.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Orgullosamente Negra, Orgullosamente Yo.

Orgullosamente Negra, Orgullosamente Yo.

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