9 Ways to Support Writers in Any Season
Call it irony, providence, and maybe just good (or bad) timing, but this was a topic I had wanted to cover even before everyone’s lives took an unexpected turn in the last week.
Supporting those who’ve been hit hardest by the economic impact of the Coronavirus is a priority now and will be for months, probably even years, to come.
Some writers, artists, and creatives have been able to write and work from home. Others, including actors, performers, and filmmakers, have had their work and primary source of income put on hold for the unforeseeable future.
Unfortunately, in a season of shutdowns and social distancing, movie theaters, concert halls, dance studios, performing arts centers, theme parks, and other entertainment venues were some of the first businesses to close, and with them went many of the traditional means of supporting artists, writers, and performers.
Yes, many people will turn to reading books and watching movies to pass the time, and many writers and artists will have their work read and viewed more in the coming weeks.
However, very few writers or artists, are able to make a living from just their art. Most are required to work part or full-time jobs in order to pay the bills and provide for their families, and those jobs have fallen into Corona limbo like all the rest.
I’ve encouraged writers to keep writing during this time, and I will continue to do so. But I also recognize that, whether it’s in this season or the one to follow, writing always involves financial and creative risk. And being creative in the midst of crisis requires enormous faith, courage, and mental focus, some of which may be hard to come by right about now.
But there’s a lot you can do to support writers, struggling or not. Some support is obviously financial. Some is more emotional or encouraging.
So whether you’re a writer or know someone who is, here are nine things you can do to support writers in any season or stage of their career.
1. The Obvious: Read Their Work
Don’t just say you’ll do it, actually do it!
Nothing makes a writer feel more supported than someone who takes the time to read their work. Whether it’s an article, blog post, poem, short story, picture book, episode of their podcast or YouTube channel, or novel, writers put their time, heart, and energy into their writing, and they do it for readers like you.
Imagine if you gave someone a Christmas present, and when July rolls around, they still haven’t opened it. It’s just sitting on their kitchen counter or tucked away in their closet, still in its wrapping paper. Yikes!
“I support you, man, I just haven’t read anything you’ve written.” That doesn’t carry much weight does it? Unfortunately, this happens to writers all the time.
I understand that reading anything takes time. Writers know this too and don’t expect you to burn through their manuscript in the first week (although that would say a lot wouldn’t it?). However, your love and support are often communicated more by the time you’re willing to give than the empty words and promises you don’t keep.
A lot of the work you’ll read, watch, or listen to in the next few weeks comes at no financial cost to you. It could be a web-based article, episode of a podcast, or blog post. All they cost are your time. If you have it, spend it. Trust me, it goes a long way to help writers stay positive, inspired, motivated, and on their feet.
And if you can buy a book or rent a movie they’ve written or contributed to, do it. It matters now more than ever!
In any season, you can show writers you support them by reading their work. Luckily for you, there’s a lot of exciting new writing, stories, and creative work on the way.
2. Go to Their Readings
Okay, this one is probably not going to happen for a while, but once social distancing has become a thing of the past, writers will get back to performing publics readings of their work to gain exposure, promote finished books, or try out works-in-progress.
Go to them! They can be a lot of fun for you and show writers their work is important.
It’s like that episode from The Office, when Pam (Jenna Fischer) finally gets up the courage to submit her paintings to a local art gallery. However, on the night of the art show, no one from the office shows up, except Michael (Steve Carrell). He may know nothing about art, but that doesn’t matter. He showed up, and that means everything to Pam!
So go to readings. Go to book signings and book launches. Go to writing conferences and sign up for workshops they’ve been asked to lead. Get out and go (once we’re back up and running again of course.)
Plus, in a world where Amazon has become the world’s leading bookseller, with Barnes & Nobles fading rapidly, many local bookstores and coffee shops are taking up the charge to host public readings from promising young authors or open mic nights with local musicians and poets. Your attendance and cup of coffee will help smaller, privately owned businesses coming out of the lockdown.
It’s a win, win, and win for the writer, the business, and you. So go!
3. Buy Their Work!
To make a living as a writer, writers actually have to find ways to get paid to write. And they cannot do that without you, the reader.
When you buy a writer’s book, read their articles, or donate to their pages, you help them do what they love and are trained to do. Your financial support not only helps the writer pay their bills; it shows publishers, advertisers, producers, and other readers that their work is valued and valuable.
Pro Tip: buy their work early and preorder when possible!
When a publisher sees that a writer’s work is in demand, their services are more likely to be sought after for future projects. Also, by buying a writer’s book in the first few weeks, you help raise their book in the sales charts. That inherently creates more exposure from booksellers like Amazon who highlight books that are trending. The same is true for articles.
Buying a writer’s work is payment for a product you find valuable and an investment in a writer you value.
4. If You Like it, Tell Them
I’m amazed by how many writers, myself included, have had their work read but have no idea whether people actually liked it or not.
If you like something a writer has written, tell them. Follow them on social media, comment on their posts, send them a message, or write to their publisher or agent. Let them know you enjoy reading their work.
As a writer, when you know you have fans who like what you’re doing, it encourages and motivates you to write more.
5. Subscriptions, Likes, Reviews, and Shares Matter
A lot of writers have personal blogs and social media pages. In the social media era, likes, subscriptions, and shares all help writers gain exposure and traction in their career, especially when they’re starting off.
If you like their work, tell them, but more importantly, tell others.
Write reviews of their books on Amazon.
Forward their articles, share their posts, like and recommend their podcast and YouTube channel to others, especially on social media, where it can be seen by even more people. It’s so easy, yet few people actually take the second required to click “like” or “share.”
And don’t forget to Subscribe! Subscribe! Subscribe!
Subscriptions help writers assemble email lists that will allow them to market their books to more readers in the future.
6. Never Buy Pirated Material
I can’t emphasize this enough! Nothing hurts writers financially more than bootlegged media, pirated material, and copy write infringement.
I know that a lot of people will be watching movies at home in the next few weeks. Resist the urge to download pirated movies!!! And please challenge those you know are doing this, especially right now when finances are tight for everyone! You can be nice about it. I won’t. Piracy of intellectual and creative work ticks me off!
When you pirate material or buy material that’s been pirated, you are directly stealing from the writer and chipping away income from their monthly residual check. You’re also proving you don’t value their work enough to pay for it. And what does that tell the writer about what you think of them as a person or professional.
Even if you’re not downloading or copying material that was written by a writer you know, you’re still hurting their industry and future business.
If you’re going to read it or watch it, buy it!
The writer put in months, maybe more, to write something you may only pay twenty bucks or less to enjoy. That is a small price to pay for the hours of work they gave to that project, which they might not have been getting paid for at the time.
Pay for legitimate streaming service subscriptions and legal downloads only! And when the quarantines and lockdowns lift, please go to the actual movie theaters, who are at risk of going under completely right now! And don’t forget to support writers in public readings and by buying from local bookstores.
I promise you, there are people in your life who are trying to make a living in writing. Why make life harder for them by stealing from their monthly paychecks?
7. Stop Calling Young Writers “Aspiring” Writers
If you know someone who’s writing, they’re a writer. Enough said!
At what point does a writer transition from being an “aspiring” writer to an “actual” writer? Publication credits? Money? Awards? Followers?
Don’t turn your definition of success into a label that limits a young writer from reaching their full potential. They be a student or work other jobs to make ends meet, but if they’re writing, no matter how good or successful they are, published or unpublished, they are a writer! And the journey to publication is often much longer than most careers. That doesn’t mean they aren’t patiently and purposefully working their butts off to get there.
Treat writers in your circle as professional writers and watch what happens when they know others respect their craft and recognize the work they’re doing.
8. Shield Writers from Unnecessary Distractions and Interruptions
In any season, writers must set aside time to get their writing done, and they MUST treat that block, however long it may be, as sacred. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacles to writers getting their work done come from distractions and interruptions.
With many writers now working from home, they’ll be dealing with a whole new assortment of distractions and interruptions. Deal with it, writers! Distractions are plentiful in any season, so don’t use this as an excuse! Set your boundaries. Communicate your needs. Ask for help.
Writers always need people in their inner circle who can protect their creative workspace and designated writing time from these obstacles.
If you want to support a writer working at home, whether it’s a spouse, roommate, friend, parent, or sibling, be their shield. Defend them from interruptions. Remove unnecessary distractions to their work. Let them write with the clarity and focus they need to perform at their best.
If you value the writer, show it by valuing their writing time.
Communicate. Collaborate. Come up with a writing plan. And stick to that plan together.
9. Show Interest in What Writers are Working On
Instead of waiting for a writer to tell you about their work, ask them about it. Show interest. Remember what’s important to them and consuming their creative energy.
It’s like someone you’ve only met once remembering your name, hobbies, and interests even months later. It’s not only impressive, it makes you feel seen and heard.
Years ago, my wife’s roommate took interest in my writing and asked what I was working on, at which time I pitched her the premise of my middle grade novel. After finishing a draft of that work, I moved on to other projects. However, occasionally she will ask about that story, referencing specific characters and scenes I had pitched to her years prior.
Any time someone asks about a story I’m working on, I get excited to talk about it. And why wouldn’t it? If I’m going to devote that much time and energy to my writing, I should probably love it.
Other people’s interest in my work inspires me to keep going. And if they’re that interested to ask questions and care enough to remember what I’ve shared or written, maybe I’m on to something.
There’s never just one way to support writers. Show you care. Read their work. Share it with others. Respect their craft. Recognize that they’re working hard. And contribute to their work however you can.
Writers can always use financial support, but don’t underestimate the power of your words of encouragement either. The stories our writers will create in the days to come will bring hope to our world and make it a better, brighter place when all is said and done. Supporting writers, therefore, is not just an investment in their future, it is in investment in your future and our future as a society.
So keep reading and keep supporting writers. The world needs them to tell the story of our times and give us hope when things seem hopeless.
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Until Today, Storytellers