How Writers Support Writers: The Literary Community Needs You

One of my first posts for this blog gave advice for finding a community of writers because I strongly believe that writing is not a solitary task. For this same reason, it’s important that writers support each other.

When you go to a comedy open mic, guess who’s in the crowd? Other comedians trying to make it. When hairdressers and nail techs want to try out something new, guess who volunteers as their guinea pigs? Other hairdressers and nail techs.

Why? Because that’s what family does (or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to do!) – And when you become a writer, it’s basically like you’re joining a literary family. So, it’s important that writers are there for each other. I see it as making a contribution to my career karma. Every time I support another writer, I feel like it contributes to another writer supporting me and my work. Here are some ideas for how you can show up for your literary family.

Read & Repost
This is probably the most obvious thing you can do: Read other writers. But you’d be surprised by how many writers don’t read. Not only does reading make your own writing better, it also helps you stay up on what’s going on in your field. When you read something by a writer you like, share it on your social media. Tag the writer. Tweet them kudos. Send a quick note of appreciation to the editor.

Help spread the word about good work! There’s so much that’s been written, sometimes the excitement of getting something published can be damped by the question, “Is anyone even going to read this?” So, it goes a long way for writers when they feel like their work is visible because their readers are vocal.

Go to Readings
I just drove 2-hours to see Roxane Gay read from her new book. Obvs, Roxane does not need my support, but it felt good to spend an evening as an adoring fan among other adoring fans and to support a bookstore at the same time. I’ve also gone to (and read at) local readings. You might find someone local who’s work you really connect with. And when you go, don’t be shy about bringing a friend or two.

If you’re really ambitious, you can organize readings. If you connect with a place and know a handful of writers, it isn’t that hard to pull off. It’s also a great way to become incredibly valuable to your local literary community. This is also the answer if you live some place where there aren’t really any readings. Even if it’s just you and a bunch of people you already know enjoying each other’s work, it’s still great practice for the future.

Put $5 on a Crowdfund
Going to writers retreats and workshops can be pricey. If you have a writer friend who needs help, don’t be shy about donating as much as you can toward their fees, even if it’s just $5. It’ll go a long way toward an experience that will help your friend become a better writer. Retreats and workshops also put established writers to work, so they can get paid for their skills. And one day when you’re an established writer – I’m positive every writer reading this has envious amounts of success in their future – you’ll benefit from folks paying to bask in your greatness.

Buy, Buy, Buy
Okay, like please don’t bootleg books. If you can’t afford them, go your library. If your library doesn’t have it, fill out the form requesting they buy it. If they won’t, go in on a copy with a few friends and pass it around. Or create a book chain. Everyone buys a book off a list of books everyone wants to read and you all swap until everyone’s read each book on the list.

I’m in talks with the library in my city to teach free workshops at their branch, that’s how I support the library. But I support other writers by buying their books… Hardcover. Don’t worry, I don’t expect everyone to be as diehard at that (or even be able to afford to be). Hell, I even have friends who only buy hardcover and only from local bookstores – No Amazon. I’m not that committed (and I have my own thoughts about Amazon that I won’t bore you with).

Another way to support writers, if once you’ve bought a book, be loose about loaning it out. Let everyone experience the awesomeness of your new favorite writer. And those books you weren’t feeling or just know you won’t miss, give those books away. Give them to friends, donate them to the library or a shelter or a local school. Let those books touch as many people as possible.

How do you support writers? Share with us on Twitter and we’ll RT your ideas.