Writing is a Team Sport

olympics

As I write this, the Olympics are in full swing, and I don’t know about you, but I am glued to my television every night, cheering on Team USA.

I am blown away by the dedication of these athletes. As I watch them compete, I see similarities in their job and mine, in their passion and in my passion. And of course as a writer, I see an analogy in EVERYTHING. So here are my take-aways from the Olympics:

1. Identify your team.

Kariss' teamWhat strikes me about so many of these Olympic events is that they are solo endeavors, meaning the athlete competes alone and is scored individually, even though they are part of a larger team for his/her particular discipline and country. But regardless of the individual scoring, each athlete also has a support system, usually consisting of coaches, trainers, and family and friends. Writing so often feels like an isolated career. Unless I sit down and place my fingers on the keyboard, it doesn’t happen. A month before my first book, Shaken, released, I panicked. I needed help, but not with the writing. I have a great publisher, editor, and agent, but I needed a local team. In January, I invited a group of my friends to participate with me in the dreaming and execution. I call them my “Creative Brain Trust.” And, man, did they have ideas. They are the reason for all the buzz leading up to release day. They not only encouraged, but jumped in to help.

2. Have the courage to share your passion.

One thing I LOVE about watching these incredible athletes is the pure joy they feel in participating in and sharing their sport with the watching world. Writing is a vulnerable career. We splash our hearts and thoughts across bound pages and put it into the hands of those who can criticize. That is the beauty and the struggle of art. These athletes are no different. There is something beautiful about watching a snowboarder catapult in the air on a jump, stick the landing, and grin from ear-to-ear as they coast to a stop. What a rush! Move past the possibility of criticism and fear of what people think. Find the joy in writing, and be unafraid to share that with others.

3. Dedication and training pay off.

KLshaken

What is your Olympic moment? What are you training for? For a couple of years, I wondered if my training would pay off. I flew to out-of-state conferences, bought training books, took classes, spent money on professional editing, joined associations. It didn’t seem to lead anywhere. But my Olympic moment just came February 4 with the release of Shaken, book one in the Heart of a Warrior series. I look back and see all the training and dedication coming down to this one moment. And I’m not done yet. I’m gearing up for my next Olympic moment next winter with the release of Shadowed. In the meantime, back to training.

4. Be innovative and take risks.

I heard a snowboarder from Canada say that his sport is always changing. In order to succeed and stay on top, he has to be willing to change with it. But change in itself isn’t enough. He has to be willing to blaze the trail for new tricks, new techniques, and new skill. That’s what I love about writing. It’s fluid. Though the rules are specific, they allow for personal style. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of this field and make it your own. There is value in following the rules of the market, but there is also value in standing apart. Find the balance. I’m still learning what this looks like, but I relish the challenge.

5. Celebrate the victories.

Whether or not they win a medal, at the end of the day these athletes are Olympians, and so many of them celebrate that fact alone. I loved watching a first time cross-country skier celebrate eighth place because it was a personal best for her. She even talked about where she could be four years from now in the next winter Olympics.

At the end of the day, you are a writer. Celebrate the success and release of your work. Take a break and rest. Then get back on the horse and crank out something even better for your next Olympics. You have accomplished something great. Now, set your sights on something greater.

What lessons are you learning during the Olympics? What would you add to this list? Happy writing, and Go USA!

Linking Arms

Talk about lousy timing! After accepting the position of president for my local writer’s group, HIS Writers, I was shocked when the Lord asked me to stop pursuing book publication. “Why are you asking me to work for writers if you won’t let me write?” I whined.

His answer was tender, “This is for you–a gift.”

And so it was. As chaos swirled in my life friends in HIS Writers linked arms with me and kept me sane. Though multiple family crises didn’t allow much writing time, staying involved kept me learning, growing, and networking as a writer. As the difficult season drew to a close, HIS Writers cheered as I received my first book contract.

There are many practical reasons to get involved in a writing group. Below are some reasons to connect–and also things to look for as you choose where to belong.

Networking

HIS Writers in 2010

There’s great value in finding support among your peers, but there’s also the business aspect of networking. Because of networking in HIS Writers, I received my first free-lance editing job. I’ve also been in the position to sub-contract part of my free-lance writing, and I looked to the people in my group when it came time to hire. It was a joy to offer a first publishing opportunity to some gifted writers. My first fiction book contract came about through a friend in the group. Never underestimate the power of peer relationships.

In many vibrant writing groups, you don’t only network with peers. Through HIS Writers I’ve met people from across the publishing world–authors, editors, even a publisher! Two agents from WordServe Literary spoke to our group. I also networked with the store manager where we meet. He’s promised me a prime spot during the next holiday season for a book signing!

Education

Good writing groups offer you a chance to develop professionally. Advanced writers and speakers teach craft. Critique groups help members develop. Strong groups also educate  about the business of writing.

HIS Writers board with the speaker of our first Novel Crafters Seminar of the Rockies. Left to right: Donna Schlachter, Susan May Warren, Paula Moldenhauer, Linda Abels, and Jill Hups

Cheerleaders

We’ve all watched eyes glaze over when non-writer family and friends are no longer tracking with us. As excited as our loved ones get as they watch us succeed, they often don’t understand the journey. We need cheerleaders who’ve felt the sting of rejection and know how to get up and try again. We need wise counsel from people who’ve been there.

A Chance to Give Back

As Christian writers we’re on the same team, working toward eternal impact. There are many ways to serve in a writing group. While getting involved with a local leadership team is rewarding, giving back can be as simple as cheering on the person seated next to you.

I recently accepted the position of Colorado Coordinator for the American Christian Fiction Writers. My passion is to see others benefit as I have from strong local chapters. How about you? Have writing groups helped you? How have you given back? What do you wish your local group had to offer?