Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Somebody to Lean On

by Marilyn Brant

I hope the title makes you all start swaying and singing, too, because friends don't let friends do karaoke alone. C'mon, I wanna hear ya now, "We all need, somebody to lean on..." :)

This writing gig is a tough journey. 
I tend to be pretty independent but, after more than a decade of writing and publishing, it's been proven to me again and again that this isn't a career path I'd want to travel without a support system. That support system doesn't have to traipse around with me constantly in my daily life. Virtual pals are great, too, although it's nice to have both. What it does have to be is genuine. I think we've all experienced the sting of thinking someone is a friend because they act nice on the surface, only to find they've been talking about us behind our backs, feeling resentful when things are going our way or, even worse, gleeful when things aren't. But when you find someone who is truly supportive, I don't think even the best writing tools on the planet are more effective than such a friend at helping us work through those rough patches.
When I first began taking fiction writing seriously, my only support system was my family, specifically my husband. (My son was too little back then to do anything other than shred my manuscript pages or, occasionally, chew on one.) I didn't know ANY professional writers of any kind and didn't have a clue about the process. So, until I'd finished writing my first draft, I didn't tell my parents, my husband's parents, or even my brother that I was working on a novel. Once they knew, they were tremendously supportive, especially my husband's mom, who must have earned several heavenly medals in the mother-in-law sainthood category after reading and giving me feedback on THREE different drafts of my first dreadful, deservedly unpublished manuscript. (And then the dear woman read my second manuscript. And my third. And my fourth. And most of what became my debut novel, According to Jane. She was incredible...) 
My brother, who couldn't be more of a macho-cool guy and a fan of bloody thrillers, surprised me by asking to read a number of my early romance, chick-lit, and women's fiction efforts. My son, who's still a bit young to be reading most of my books, learned to give Mommy time to write uninterrupted and, when that failed, my very sweet husband learned that an evening of bonding with his son (out of the house) was right up there chocolate, roses, and whispered sweet nothings.
But strong support on the home front, while priceless, wasn't the only kind I knew I needed. I somehow lucked into getting involved with my local RWA chapter (Chicago-North), and this helped me branch out into meeting other aspiring writers online and, eventually, at conferences and in person, from all around the world. I know I wouldn't have become a published author without the insight, encouragement, and astute feedback of my critique partners. More than that, I wouldn't have survived years of rejections or the whirlwind of release days and promotional events without the friends in my life -- online and off -- who've been there to talk me out of torching a problematic scene in the fireplace, to distract me from reading negative reviews with the promise of Almond Joy martinis, and/or to email me links to helpful articles when they know it'll give me valuable information.
What about you? Who do you call on when, um, you need a hand? (Cue the music again...start swaying and clapping to the song...) Who can you lean on? Please share!
*A version of this post appeared on Magical Musings in October 2010.*
Marilyn Brant is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women's fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. Her novels have won awards such as RWA's Golden Heart and the Booksellers' Best, and they've been featured in the Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, BOMC, and the Rhapsody Book Club. She loves music, chocolate, travel, and all things Jane Austen, and she was named the 2013 Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. 

Visit her website at www.marilynbrant.com or check out her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called The Road to You.

12 comments:

  1. Marilyn, I can't agree more about the need for friends who support you, as well as family. My husband has been terrific in patiently waiting for this last work in progress to take enough shape that I'm willing to let it out. If you're ever in Tallahassee, let me know, as I LOVE karaoke and sing like a buzz saw!

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    1. LOL, Sheila!!
      Karaoke with you would be a blast! We'll need to grab a few other girlfriends nearby (Maria Geraci, I'm looking at you ;) and drag 'em out there with us!
      And I'm glad you got such a wonderful hubby. Makes all the difference in the world to have support like that...

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  2. Okay, okay I'm singing, Happy :)
    It's so true that we're not an Island that it takes many people to mold us into who we are. My family of literary friends is very widespread from authors/reader/publishers/publicists and an occasional post on my blog from a t-gel Asian sales pro :)
    And I know that I wouldn't be the reader/reviewer/blogger I am today without those friends whom I've never even met before, you know like you :)
    Very well said my friend!!

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    1. Deb,
      Sometimes it amazes me that we haven't yet met in person, but I think of it as only a temporary glitch in the space-time continuum. Your warmth and kindness is revealed by your every online action, and your encouragement and support of authors around the world is awe-inspiring. In the future, I know we'll finally meet!
      And, btw, I can swing by St. Louis to pick you up on my drive down to Florida to see Sheila. You can join us for karaoke night ;).

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  3. Every word is true. Where would we be without our dearest friends and family? Holed up in Key West drinking and smoking til death do us part (like Hemingway). Great post!!

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    1. Ha! I love that, Saralee!!
      I only want to be holed up and drinking like Hemingway if I've got my friends along ;).
      And thank you. So glad you liked the post!

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  4. So, so true.. I'd still be on a ledge somewhere without a few sane friends to walk me off..

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    1. Thanks, Christa!
      And yeah, I know. Me, too. Just to have someone say, "It's all right. This, too, shall pass," on those especially difficult days...

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  5. So, so true.. I'd still be on a ledge somewhere without a few sane friends to walk me off..

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  6. Lovely, heartwarming post, Marilyn, thank you! You are truly blessed with the people in your life, and this is something very uplifting to read about! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Joana,
      Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to comment! I'm very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life (and you know I count you & all of our Austen friends in that group ;). The best part of blogs and social media for me has been getting to "meet" such fabulous readers and fellow writers!! *Hugs*

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