Got Any Wise People in your Village? Or Just Idiots?

Jimi Hendrix statue on the Isle of Wight
I was driving my daughter to school the other day when a Jimi Hendrix song came on. (Someone's got to raise her right, yes?) And I started thinking, as I inherently do when hearing All Along the Watchtower or The Wind Cries Mary or The Best Version of The Star-Spangled Banner EVER, what a shame it was that he died so young. Only 27 at the time of his death—over 40 years ago— and he’s still hailed as one of the most talented guitarists of all time.

It's a sadly familiar story—the brilliant young talent who burns out early due to death, addiction, bad choices, or just giving the idiots undue influence over his life: Vincent Van Gogh, James Dean, Virginia Woolf, Jim Morrison, Michael Vick, John Belushi. Careers and lives crashing to a halt at the height of success due to unfortunate and completely avoidable circumstances. And it always makes me wonder: where were their Wise People?

Writers that we are, we’re not under the same pressure as celebrities and geniuses. Our decisions are simpler, our temptations less life-threatening. But the possibility for premature burn-out among authors is still great. We have our own kinds of pressures—to achieve a nearly impossible dream, to prove our talent to ourselves and others, to consistently churn out work that is lauded, sells well, and outshines our previous efforts. Fear is a constant companion, accompanied by self-doubt, insecurity, and indecision—all hindering and inhibiting us at every turn. And as if the internal demons weren’t enough, we also have to face the expectations and criticism of family members and friends, colleagues, readers, and industry professionals.

It's a miracle we ALL don't end up self-medicating.

The fact is, we need some wise people in our lives if we're going to succeed in the long haul. In this industry, having knowledgeable, honest, and caring advisors is not only recommended, it’s imperative. We need people

  • who understand and encourage our passion. 
  • who are truthful about the quality of our work and how far we have to go. 
  • who challenge us.
  • who can help us navigate new territory.
  • who will tell us when we’re headed down the wrong path. 
  • who have our best interests at heart. 
  • who love us unconditionally. 

Rarely can one person fulfill all these duties. Much like the proverbial village needed to raise a child, it takes a council of wise advisors to help any of us succeed as writers.

If your team is lacking any of these key players, find them—in critique groups, on message boards, at conferences. Pilfer them from your writing friends. Latch onto those people who fit the bill and cut the riffraff loose. I know—you can’t exactly jettison your boss, or your spouse, or your Drunk Aunt Alice. But you can recognize the naysayers for who they are: people in your life who love you and have value but aren’t wise when it comes to your writing. They have no business holding a position of influence at that particular council table. Relieve them of those duties and bring in others who can get the job done. 

Remember: you are responsible for the people you allow to advise you and influence your writing journey. Make sure those individuals are wise. Then be the wise people for someone else.



15 comments:

Wendy's Writing said...

These are wise words Becca. As writers we all need people who fulfill a range of needs. I am lucky in that my husband is able to meet most of the criteria. I didn't realise there was a statue of Jimmy Hendrix on the Isle of Wight!

JeffO said...

That's probably my favorite Hendrix song--it's beautiful.

Great post, Becca. I can sometimes be kind of down on the whole social media culture we live in, but one good thing about it is it makes it much easier to find these people than it used to be. I am quite fortunate to have a great support network at home and in the wider world, and I do my best to be one of those people for others.

Beth said...

What a lovely post. We all need our wise people, as artists and as human beings. Thanks for the reminder of how much they mean to us.

Traci Kenworth said...

I continue to learn so much from those writers I'm lucky enough to talk to/read etc. I am blessed to have such wonderful ladies from YAFF in my life as well as those I've met in blogs, twitter, fb, and pininterest. Every one has helped me grow in their own way and I look forward to the days ahead and the lessons I still need to go through. This blog and you, Angela and Becca, are one of those treasures in life. Thank you!!

Angela Ackerman said...

A very wise post in itself, Becca! All of us need mentors--people who have knowledge beyond our own through experience.

In the new world of authorship, we wear many hats. The need for mentors to guide us not only with writing, but social media and marketing, is imperative. Luckily, while a writer may have to do more than ever before, one thing has not changed...this community is filled with generous spirits of people willing to share their experiences with others. :)

@Traci--thank you! <3 Very kind of you to say. :)

Cathryn Cade said...

Becca,

I'm so glad you posted on this, and may all the new writers read and believe!

There are many generous writers who will encourage us, and then there are those who cannot or will not. We need to have the strength of purpose to wave the latter on their way, and gather in those who love and support us.

Thanks for being a shining example,
best,
Cathryn Cade
http://www.cathryncade.com

Cad Bane[slash]Stilwater said...

What a moving post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

I don't know if you will ever read this or not, but I have been following your wonderful blog for a long time. Just recently I was finally able to self-publish my novel online, and I owe a lot of that to you guys. Your blog has been incredibly helpful to me during my journey. Thank you so much!

Becca Puglisi said...

If I've been any kind of example, it's only because of the people who have shown me kindness and generosity over the years. I'm happy to be able to pay some of that forward.

Congrats on your recent release, Cad!

Martha Ramirez said...

Exactly! It's no wonder writers committed suicide in the past or turned to the bottle or drugs/meds.

This was a great post, Becca.Tthank you!Excellent reminder!

Karoline Kingley said...

I've discovered that often times readers, and not writers give the best advice. After all they are the primary literary consumer, and they notice things that even I as a blogger and novelist don't.

Laura Pauling said...

Wonderful post. I'm so thankful and don't know what I'd do without the honesty and support from my writing friends!

catherinemjohnson said...

Woo hoo! Awesome post!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

First, have you been to the Isle of Wight? I went there several years ago. You may be the first person I "know" who has been there too, if you have been there. (Yes, I know that wasn't the focus of the post...sorry.)

I try to have critique partners that are better writers than me....I learn so much from them, their critiques, and their manuscripts when I critique them. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Love this post!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

It's been said often in the comments, but I have to add that this is a wonderful post. I love it. I almost started clapping a few times while reading. : ) Where would any of us be without the wisdom and support of our fellow writers?

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