Do you love an aspiring writer? Here are 10 practical, effective tips on how to support a family member who wants to write.
Before the tips, a writing quip:
“I think marriage and writing books are very difficult to combine. If things don’t go well between you, then there’s a tendency for the partner to blame it on the book, and quite right,” says Jill Robinson, author of Perdido. “The person a writer marries is forced to take a certain role in relation to the writer, and may not like that role. It happens with all creative people, actors, musicians…but writers are particularly difficult, because they have to be so solitary.”
Writers are not only solitary, they could also get lost in their writing for weeks. I could write for 15 hours a day and Bruce would still have to drag me away from my laptop, kicking and screaming. Luckily, I couldn’t ask for better support than my husband – who keeps telling me he’s gonna retire early and buy a couple of boats on what I’ll one day earn as a freelance writer.
I’m finally starting to believe him.
10 Ways to Support a Family Member Who Writes
In How to Write to Make a Difference I describe why writing is so important to me. If you want to support an aspiring writer, know that writing may be their biggest dream. Simply accepting and even understanding that may be all the support your writer needs.
1. Get out of your writer’s hair
Let her write on Sunday mornings, Tuesday in the middle of the night, or during the holidays when the whole extended family is visiting. Build her a writing shack in the woods, and visit her daily with food….okay, all joking aside, I don’t believe that the best way to support a writer is to let her write nonstop. A better idea is to schedule your together time. Let her write madly if a deadline is looming; otherwise, be together regularly.
2. Read his published stuff
Bruce is great for this – he reads all my print articles. The online stuff, he tries to keep up with – but I admit, I’m churning it out pretty fast. An easy way to support a family member who writes is to find and read what he’s written. If he doesn’t have to find it for you, all the better.
3. Offer feedback
This can be difficult for nonwriters to do, but it’s incredibly helpful – for certain writers – to hear what readers think. I love getting feedback. Seeing my work through another’s eyes improves my writing skills. So, to support a family member who writes, make a few comments on her articles, poems, or stories.
4. Know your writer
Caveat to #3: Not everyone digs feedback on her writing. Ask your writer if she wants you to comment and if so what kind of feedback she’s looking for. If she only wants to be praised, then…so be it. Unless you know her well enough to push her a little.
5. Encourage her to buy the right software
A few weeks ago, I was struggling with whether I should invest in a WordPress theme. Not one of those freebies, but a more professional one that has the bells and whistles. Bruce offered the exact right kind of support for me as a writer: he agreed that if I want to build a business, I need to invest in it. So I bought the software, and I love it! (“It” is Quips & Tips for Achieving Your Goals and the WordPress theme is from Michael Pollock at Solostream – it’s wonderful).
6. Respect his physical writing space
We don’t have kids yet, so luckily my writing space isn’t raided by children, animals, or relatives. Or husbands. If you really want to support a family member who writes, stay out of his space. Don’t clean it up, rearrange it, write on it, or poke through it.
7. Set up her equipment
Another investment I just made in my freelance writing career is a Canon printer/fax/scanner/photocopier. Bruce set it up for me and made sure it was running properly before I needed it – this is a hugely helpful, practical way to support a writer you love.
8. Buy him writing books
This could be tricky. Me, I don’t own many writing books. I borrow them by the truckload from the libraries in my city, and would only purchase only a handful. One I love is Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. But, other writers may want a collection of writing books and thus would see your gift as a huge way of supporting their writing careers. So, buy a him a writing book. Not necessarily for Christmas or a birthday….do it “just because.”
9. Remind her of her achievements
To support a family member who writes, say “Remember what you were working on this time last year, and how far you’ve come?” Point out her progress. Remind her of how she’s achieved her writing goals. Don’t just do this when she’s struggling with writer’s block or a writing slump – make it a habit to review her writing achievements.
10. Celebrate milestones
A writing milestone can be a rough first draft, a first article sale, a book contract, or a blog on the internet. The size and shape of the milestone doesn’t matter. What does matter is supporting your writer with genuine excitement and joy. That’ll keep her motivated to keep writing, which will keep her happy. And that’ll keep you happy, too.
If you’re looking for a practical way to support the writer in your life, give her Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. It’s one of the best writing books ever written – and I should know because I’ve read over a hundred of them 🙂
If you have any tips for supporting a family member who writes, please do comment…I’d love to hear from you!