In The Company Of My Betters

It has been a slow build for me, this writing life, but when I look at where I started (absolutely nowhere), to where I have come (Just this side of nowhere), I know there has been movement, even if it has been slow.

When I first started writing, I had role models, a whole big bushel of them. I looked up to dozens of writers whose words had touched me in some way. I read and re-read their stories, hoping to emulate them in my writing, and in so-doing mimick their skill in my craft, and thereby affect others in the ways they had affected me.

I quickly realized, as I got further into my own writing, that spending too much time emulating someone is a sure way to failure…not to mention plagiarism.

Once I started attending the Surrey International Writers Conference, I found something I needed much more that a role model: A Mentor.

Bear in mind, this did not happen instantly; you don’t walk into the conference where they hand you a crisp name badge, a pen, a conference package, and a mentor who will spend every ounce of their own strength in order to make you awesome. For me, it took several years, much hard work, and a great deal of perseverence, but I was lucky enough to have someone – two someones, in fact – take an interest in me and my writing, and gave me goodly chunks of their time, to help me improve.

When I look at what success I have had (limited though it may be), I can trace it’s origins back to these two people (who I will not embarass by naming in my dross of a blog). With several kind words, even more stern ones, and a few kicks upon my bulbous ass they steered me in the right direction. The rest, I discovered, was up to me.

So, I took what they had given me, and used it to build the foundation of what would become my own voice. I worked, and slaved, and cranked away at my writing desk until I could patch a story together that wouldn’t spring too many leaks when asked to hold water.

It was a slow build, but as my craft moved foward, I found amazing things to be happening. Instead of gawking in open mouthed wonder from a bench in the hallway, I was invited to sit at the bar, bestselling authors on either side of me. Instead of listening with rapt attention, drool coming from the corner of my mouth as I tried to figure out what everyone was talking about (what is this pacing you speak of, and why do I give a shit about cadence?), I was an active participant in discussions about the craft of writing, and the condition of storytellers. I found that sitting in the company of my betters I actually had something useful to contribute, which is one of the greatest personal victories I’ve ever achieved.

Like I said, the movement has been slow, but at least there is movement. I’ve got one book published, a short story that looks like it’s going to be published in an anthology in the fall, and a little blog that only half a dozen people read, but none of them have told me I suck…yet.

These are things that I likely would not have been able to do without help.

None of us are in this writing life alone. Writing, in and of itself, is a solitary craft, but the learning of it is seldom, if ever, done in complete solitude. If you are willing to put in the work, and listen to advice when you’re lucky enough to get it, then you can and will reach your goals…it just might take a fuck of a long time.

Do not despair. Do not give up. Keep writing. If you do these things, I have no doubt that you will one day find yourself in the company of your betters, with some pup at your elbow dying to hear what you have to say.

Just make sure you remember that we all started just this side of nowhere and pay forward what assistance you had.

Thanks for reading.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “In The Company Of My Betters

  1. Great post. Finding a mentor(s) is so critical. Finding your own voice takes time. Even online it’s cool when you find yourself in conversations with best-selling authors. I still remember the week where I had 2 best-selling indie authors in email/twitter taking my thoughts/advice seriously.

  2. Deborah Tamm

    So true. I owe my continued joy of the craft to a couple of key people; without their encouragement, support, role-modeling, and occasional Rejection Queen contest, I might not have found the courage and discovered the value in my work to pursue and persist in this crazy writerly life. Kudos to you, Tyner, for seeking wise, and good, counsel and friends. 🙂

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