When you run a nonprofit, the big conversation is about stakeholders. To make the organization thrive, you need a group of people who believe in what you are doing, who want to keep the ship afloat, who want to see your organization thriving for the next twenty years or more.
As a writer, you need the same thing. You need a group of people who buy into this idea that you want to be a writer. Think about it like this. I decided last month that I wanted to start running thirty to sixty miles/week. A simple lifestyle change. My husband had to accept that I would no longer be making coffee in the morning, and that I wanted to go to bed earlier at night. For my lifestyle shift to work, I needed someone to buy into it.
If you're going to be a writer, it's going to be harder than running sixty miles/week. First of all, it takes more time. It takes more thinking. It takes more creative energy. You're going to be buying books, reading books, talking about books. You'll go off on your own, like a little anti-social human being to do an activity that will benefit nobody. No one is waiting for your work. You are writing because you have a story you want to tell. And you've been working on your craft and you have an understanding of the creative process. You think you can tell your story well.
Find someone who believes in you. The kind of stakeholders you need fall into three categories:
- Your family, make sure they buy into the dream and are willing to let you have your own time/space for writing.
- A few published writers who are willing to read your work, tell you if it's ready to go and eventually recommend you to their editor and agent.
- Your spouse/lover—I give this person their own category because he/she needs to really be your biggest fan. My husband has the right combination of being willing to read my work, being interested in my writing and not nagging me constantly to make sure that I'm producing.
This is part of the reason people sign up for writing workshops, MFA programs and conferences. They want to have a few friends who can act as coaches for their writing life. Feel lucky. If you're running an independent press, you need a whole crowd of stakeholders, and then you have to worry about the care and feeding of those stakeholders to keep them giving to your annual fund, attending your events and being committed to the survival of your institution. As a writer, you only need a few stakeholders. Five is a nice number. But listen to them. The reason you chose them is that you thought they understood something about your writing life. So if they tell you to toss that piece and try again, give it a toss. Believe that you can always go back and find more in the thicket of the imagination. As long as you're alive and thinking, there's more wild where that came from.