I don’t exactly have a large social circle. I’ve never been someone who particularly likes crowds or anything like that. When I finally got easy access to email, I was thrilled, because I much prefer communicating via writing. Always have. There’s a lot of reasons for that, of course, and there’s also a lot of non-reasons I could talk about. But that’s not the point, here. Just a preface.
It’s hard for me to meet people, and even harder for me to meet other authors I can get along with. A few years ago, I joined a writer’s group in my area. I was shocked there was one in town at all, and when it turned out I could be friends with these people in a non-professional sense, I was ecstatic. I’m still friends with a few of these people.
But it turns out that one of the people I was closest with was very much a toxic individual. They were manipulative, they lied, they turned us against other members. And of course, as it goes with this sort of thing, I couldn’t see it. I didn’t know how bad it was until I finally did. And then I couldn’t be around them anymore. It wasn’t healthy, and I couldn’t support their lifestyle. Blah blah, personal personal.
The problem is that they were the self-appointed leader of this group. So when I had to stop being around them, I had to leave the group. I needed to separate. It was hard, because this group helped me out so much. A sounding board, beta readers, support. All gone. That led to quite the slump in productivity, and it’s a hole that I’ve been trying to claw my way out of for several months, now. I’m finally seeing the light, and that’s thanks in large part to a critique group I’ve joined. They’re wonderful people, and it’s writing first, social second.
Why was that so important? The companionship, yes, but something else. In the arts today, it’s much easier to get your work out there, and there isn’t much of a system for checking. That’s what it’s about. No matter if you’re a writer or a painter or a musician, feedback is essential. Art can be put out into the world without it, but it shouldn’t.
So this is for the creatives in the world. If you feel stuck, there’s a lot of advice. I’m going to repeat these two pieces, out of everything floating around out there. Find other people doing what you do, and run your work through them. You have no idea what a change it can make until you go after it.
Also, try to avoid people who make you miserable. It seems like stupid obvious advice, but I needed a wake-up-call, so maybe someone else does, too.