by Vicki Hinze
If your author asks for a flash drive, don’t buy her a diamond. When a writer craves a tool and gets a bauble, s/he’s disappointed. It’s not a lack of gratitude. You buy the flash drive. You’re supporting the writer and the writing. You buy the bauble and you’re thoughtful but not supporting the writer or writing. Big difference.
Writers don’t talk to you about their writing or career challenges so you’ll solve their problems. You can’t solve the author’s problems and s/he doesn’t expect you to. Authors write through challenges, they talk through challenges, making sense of the jumble so they can slot those challenges, assign a value to them and press on. So just listen and let your author talk.
Authors not yet published crave tools to learn more about the craft, the business, the writing life. But because they’re not earning, they feel they can’t justify the expense. They feel guilty about spending “our” money for “my dreams” although logically they know these things are costs of doing business. Show your support. Buy that writer a book on writing. Buy that writer “a magic pen” and tack on a note that says it’s a 100% guaranteed to be writer’s block proof. Give that writer a homemade coupon for an hour of uninterrupted writing time. In other words, follow up well-meaning words with indisputable actions. Watch that author bloom.
Authors get emotionally involved. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to write because emotion is the means by which authors connect with readers. Emotional bonds are why, when reading a book the reader stops sees words on a page and begins living the story. That can’t happen if the writer isn’t emotionally involved. You can’t get out of a book what the writer doesn’t put in it. Right? So expect your author to emote, invest, to get involved and to care. Maybe s/he doesn’t know anyone involved in a situation, but there are bigger issues at stake. Ones that relate, and those your author will write about with authority because s/he got involved.
Remember, for an author, everything is fodder. Writers take in that fodder, and they can’t turn it off. It’s natural, like breathing. So if your author is devastated, or turned off by some event, accept it. The writer is emoting. Authors do that.
Some inner-circle people will see an author weeping and turn around and walk out. Some will place an arm around him/her and say not a word. Both are equally supportive, or can be. It depends on the specific author. And that’s the final tip.
Know your author. If you don’t know your author, then you don’t know how to support him/her. The greatest tip—and it truly is the greatest—is that if you don’t know what your author needs, ask. That’s absolutely priceless.
Too often writers who need support must feel the least able to ask for it. They get hit with unsolicited suggestions and unintended slurs about their “hobby.” When they started earning, or earning again, their attitudes change. But by then, they’ve learned to live without support, or they’ve found it in other writers who understand. That can leave those closest to the writer feeling like outsiders, and in a sense they are. But they need not be.
They only need to learn how to care for and feed their author.
You can learn more about bestselling author Vicki Hinze at her website: www.vickihinze.com
(This article was excerpted from The Mystery Writers.)