A Writer’s Guide to Building a Support System: Find Cheerleaders

beth mende conny support system cheerleader write directions

Source: flickr Creative Commons

We all need cheerleaders in our lives, especially when we enter uncharted territory.

As writers, we make this territory our home for extended periods of time, and so our need for supporters is especially high. But how do we find these key individuals? Follow these five steps:

#1 — Take inventory
Make a list of all the people in your life: family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues … everyone. You’d be surprised by how many people you actually know. Sure, some are more important than others or more present in your life, but that doesn’t matter. Simply extend your circle.

Note: Don’t list people you know only in passing, say, a co-worker you nod to in the elevator.

#2 — Define your ideal
To find supportive people, you need to define, or at least have a sense of, what supportiveness means to you. Good listening skills, genuine caring, open mind, a source of inspiration and chocolate — all of these qualities may make their way onto your list. (Literally, make a list.)

Note: Don’t overthink it — this should take you just a moment or two, not several minutes. And don’t get too specific: “Supportiveness means walking my dog when I don’t feel like getting out of bed.”

#3 — Rate everyone
Next, using a pen and on a scale from 1-10 (with 1 being the lowest score, 10 being the highest), give each person on your list a Supportiveness Rating. Put aside your guilt, anger or sense of obligation; take off your rose-colored glasses and resist wishful thinking. Go with your gut — and go quickly. Do not ponder.

Note: If you find yourself making edits, you’re missing the point of this exercise. The goal here is to assess supportiveness, not to explore the nature of your relationships. Tear up your sheet of paper and start from scratch in another day or two.

#4 — Review your scores
Don’t be surprised if some of the people you love most receive low scores. Sometimes their very closeness is problematic. They may not understand or respect the whole “writing thing.” They may resent your needing time alone. They may want to protect you from rejection. They may be too busy or caught up in their own lives, and who knows what else. This doesn’t make them bad people or bad-for-you people. It just makes them people you reach out to less often (if at all).

Note: You may also be surprised by your high scorers. Perhaps they are people you generally overlook, have lost touch with or don’t know well; people whose backgrounds, careers and interests may be different from yours.

#5 — Ask for support
Now that you’ve identified your cheerleaders, ask for support. Don’t demand it or even assume you have it coming. Don’t expect people to read your mind, to drop what they are doing or to put you first. Ask. But be specific. Chances are the support you need is specific anyway: constructive criticism, a shoulder to cry on, a kick in the butt or help with the kids.

Final note: Be a cheerleader yourself. Lend an ear, open your heart. Be there for others and they will be there for you.

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