I’ve been told this; hell, I’ve even experienced it volunteering at Writespace. I’ve gone into workshops and had to share my writing, thinking Dear God, please don’t let them laugh me out of the room, and received nothing but supportive feedback and constructive criticism. That’s not to say there aren’t some people out there who take pleasure in knocking other writers down, there are. But on the whole, writers really are good at encouraging one another.
Last quarter I took on a research project exploring Flash Fiction—a genre I had very little background in. I’d recently attended panels on the subject at Writefest, and had just received notice that my first flash submission had been accepted for publication, so the subject was fresh on my mind.
I started scouring the internet: journal databases, library databases, and literary journal archives for research on my chosen topic. I signed up for a flash fiction workshop—even spoke to the instructor a little about my project at the end of the class. She gave me her card, offered to answer any questions I had, and said she would love to read the article when I finished. Wow, I thought, that was really awesome of her! (Unfortunately, I ran out of time and never got to ask her any questions for my paper, but I plan to let her read my finished project and if she’s willing, I’d still love to pick her brain about her experience with flash fiction.)
Another confession: I’m obsessive, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I have this annoying habit of trying to do everything by myself, so asking for help isn’t exactly easy for me.
I reached a point in my research where I was just STUCK. I had a general idea of where I wanted to go with the project, but couldn’t get it focused. I shocked myself when I reached out to a writer friend who I knew had experience with flash fiction. I just wanted her opinion on the project and her general thoughts on my thesis, but she went above and beyond. She gave me detailed feedback AND sent me specific links of journals and names of leading authors in the genre. I don’t know if she realizes how incredibly encouraging that was…
Then, halfway through the quarter I surprised myself again when I told my instructor that I thought I should interview some authors. She thought it was a great idea, so I looked at some of the flash stories I’d read recently and some that had been recommended to me by other writers. I read additional writing by the authors of these flash pieces and selected four authors that I thought would have informative, varied insights into the world of flash. I didn’t expect anyone to agree to an interview—people have busy lives and I wasn’t even sure if I would get responses, but all four writers accepted my interview request and all four were generous in their responses. One of the writers, Anne Goodwin, even asked me if I would like to write a post on flash fiction for her blog. She has a great blog and I was honored.
I don’t know if any experience to date has shown me the beauty of belonging to this world. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s competitive. Yes, you might think everyone is judging you all the time. But the truth is, all writers are experiencing (or have experienced) the stressful parts of being a writer. That’s why we have to support and lift each other up. I’m thankful for meeting beautiful writers who do just that!