A Helping Hand by Dawn Montgomery

“Help me” and “I don’t understand” are two of the hardest phrases to say when you feel really passionate about your book and writing career. We have this strange idea that saying these words to other writers will diminish how they see us.

“I’m discouraged” and “I don’t think I can do this” are two others that drag you into the depths of isolation. You shut yourself down and wonder why you decided to do it in the first place.

I wish I understood why we feel the need to shut ourselves away from others, but everyone does it.

Everyone. Does. It.

I’ve been writing for almost a decade now and I can’t tell you how many times I struggled and stared at my computer screen with despair. That inner editor whispered so many times how much of a failure I was. A fraud. Faking my way through the first couple (six, ten, twenty-five) books would now catch up to me.

Here’s the deal.

That terrible voice in your mind is keeping you from doing something really important, something so necessary to your creative process that it cripples you. It keeps you from reaching out to the only people who understand…who actually GET it.

Writing is hard work. Staying confident while you do it is even harder. When you reach a part in your book where you’re second-guessing everything you write, it’s time to step back and think outside the box.

If an architect is concerned about structural material quality, doesn’t he/she consult with others? When doctors are unsure about a medical condition, don’t they consult one another or hit the books? As an elementary school student, didn’t you raise your hand to ask for assistance when you weren’t sure if you heading in the right direction on your work?

All other professionals do it. Chefs, athletes (or do you think they compete without coaching or training?), military members, CEOs, teachers, etc. So why don’t we?

Why is it, as authors, do we think it’s shameful to tell each other that we’re stuck?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is a fantastic community because you’re surrounded by other people who “get it”. If you’re struggling with a scene, why don’t you post a little bit about it and ask your fellow ROWers to help? Put out a call for some beta readers or a quick critique on plot?

That’s why we’re here…to help each other. If you’re concerned that your readers will lose confidence in you, there is the ROW80 Facebook group and many of your fellow writers have contact information on their websites.

You may get some bad apples when you go searching, but, in the end, you could end up with a tight group of critique partners who can help you see the forest for the trees. There may be your perfect match out there, the one person who “gets” the way you write and your process. They might be able to point out your reason for struggling in the second scene of chapter two was because you made your hero do something out of character or that the fight scene you’re struggling with can be solved if you two talk it out step by step (or act it out step by step, if you’re close enough to work on it that way).

Keep three things in mind when you do this.

  1. Staying positive will take you and your critique partners so much farther since it’s less draining on your emotional health
  2. All opinions are that…opinions. Take from it what will help and discard the rest. Truly. It should never hurt yours or their feelings if you pick and choose where to place their advice.
  3. Admitting that you’re stuck has nothing to do with your abilities as a writer. It means you’ve managed to write yourself into a corner and aren’t sure what to do next. The book before might have flowed like a waterfall and the one after may be a dream, but this book…right now…is what you need to work on. You’re not a failure. You’re human.

I hope this helps you feel a bit more confident about asking for help and admitting that while the story is all in your head, sometimes you need someone to hold the lantern while you stroll through the maze.

Good luck this quarter, ROWers. If anyone can do it, you can.

~*~

Dawn Montgomery

6 comments

  1. Asking for help is actually a sign of having your ‘stuff’ together… a sign of maturity and skill. Glad to see you’ve encouraged us all to elevate ourselves, Dawn.

  2. Thank you for posting this; I keep having to fight off that little voice in my head and it really does help knowing there are other people out there who are going through the same thing. Also, as a relatively new member of AROW80, I have to say that the encouragement I’ve gotten from the community has been a big, big help. I’ve already noticed a change in my attitude. I feel a lot more positive. So thanks to everybody!

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