Many of us have seen the above picture and it’s right. That is a great way to support an author that you enjoy and want to see them continue. Yet, there is another area of support that I wanted to touch on. What do you do if the author in question isn’t a favorite, but part of your non-cyberspace circle? Maybe a spouse, a sibling, a friend, or somebody that you interact with outside of a computer. Is there anything else you can do besides the following phrase?
“I support you and know you can do it.”
This is a powerful phrase, but you have to be ready to back it up with actions such as simply telling others about the book or even beta reading if asked. Don’t say it and follow up by asking about the author’s Plan B, grilling them about sales made, pointing out the odds of success, or anything that you probably think is helpful as a Devil’s Advocate. Authors mentally and emotionally beat the shit out of each other enough. We really don’t need those within our physical presence to add to our stress. As workers of words, many authors even leave themselves exposed to these things in a negative way. Remember that authors work with layers beyond what is really being said, so they can look further into your words than you may expect. Asking about Plan B could easily be interpreted as ‘My support is to placate you, but I really think you should grow up and get a real job instead of acting like a child’.
So, what are some things you can ‘give’ to an author? I can think of four things:
- Time– Even if the author is a pantser, writing and editing takes time. Formatting and promoting a book takes time. Getting cover art takes time. Being an author takes a lot of time and you need to understand that. Every non-author event, errand, and request takes away from that time. If you don’t give the author time to work on their craft then you aren’t really supporting them. FYI- Giving them time at the end of the day when you’ve worn them out both physically and mentally, doesn’t count. It’d be like you being run around to help other people and THEN put back into your job without rest or time to gather your thoughts. Since writing is very mental and emotional, this course of action typically results in the author not even trying that day.
- Patience– This connects very closely with time. Creating a book and making it the best that can be requires patience. Not just for the author, but for those around them. You will have moments where they refuse to leave the work alone because they are on a roll or something is gnawing at them. This is what most artists are like. It’s an itch that has to be scratched or the author will be unfocused. Maybe even irritable. Patience goes double for anyone trying to make a career of it. Rowling, King, Tolkien, Steele, and all of the big names weren’t famous over night. It took a lot of patience and hard work for them to get there. Don’t believe me? George R.R. Martin published the first Game of Thrones book in 1996. The TV show hit in 2011 and that’s when he became the household name. 15 years for him to reach a level that you might be expecting your author friend/family member to make in 3 years time. Any author who makes it big overnight is DAMN lucky and I don’t think that system exists any more.
- Space/Privacy– Many who follow this blog probably know that I don’t have an office. I work on my bed or downstairs at the table. The latter tends to put me in traffic while the former means I only have to deal with the phone. God knows how many times I’ve smacked that cordless bastard. Anyway, an author needs space, privacy, and quiet to focus on what they’re doing. This is the same for any job. You don’t walk about to a construction worker using a jackhammer and start talking to him about the grocery list or a funny article. Just give the person space and if you REALLY need to talk to them, politely ask if they’re busy. Don’t just walk up to them and start jabbering away as if they can drop what they’re doing. It’s insulting, frustrating, and means you’re talking a person that isn’t happy to see you. So somebody better be sick, injured, dead, or some other time of emergency when this happens. Oh, and if you’re excuse is that the author has music or the TV on then I have some insight for you. For some, sounds we can control the source of are fine. I can mute Pandora and the TV with ease. The only way I can mute another person is with a stun gun and that just means you’re going to interrupt me later because you feel I overreacted.
- Understanding– No, I don’t mean understanding the author’s story. If they are trying to explain then at least attempt to follow along. Many times an author will be talking about their story to get it straight in their own head. At these points, you’re there so that the author isn’t talking to himself like a crazy person. Anyway, understanding means to realize that this is a path that they love and they look at it as a job. Not a hobby like you might see it, but a way to gain fulfillment and happiness. This means the money doesn’t always factor in and repeatedly bringing it up can cause friction. I admit that his is the hardest way to help even between other authors. You really have to listen and let go of your own priorities/goals/whatever to get a sense of what the other person is trying to explain. If an author feels like they’re not understood by those around them then their entire support structure could collapse. They’re alone and have no idea who to turn to for help. Even admitting you don’t understand, but won’t get in the way is a positive thing. Because if you don’t understand and try to push the author toward what you think they should do then you aren’t helping. In fact, you’re probably hurting them in some fashion and creating that isolation I mentioned.
So, what if you don’t support the author friend and think they have to stop? I mean, it’s a free country and you might not have the patience to give the space and time to someone you don’t really understand. If that’s the case then simply stay out of the way. Maybe this person can’t be cut out of your life, so you find other stuff to talk about. If called on your lack of support then state that you don’t like what they’re doing, but you’re staying out of the way. It might hurt the author, but at least you aren’t trying to stop them. That usually doesn’t end well.
One thing you SHOULD NOT DO, is question the people who still support the author and attempt to make them feel like they’re idiots for doing so. Say you do get through and start turning people against the author. You may think you’re gathering an army to save this poor soul from him or herself. In reality, you’re isolating them from their circle and creating resentment and distrust. Not only toward you, if they even know you’re behind it, but to everyone around them. It isn’t that they’ll suddenly think they weren’t good enough to make it. It’s now that they were abandoned by their circle and never given a chance, which isn’t a person you want to deal with when you need help. Maybe all the earlier support is now seen as lies too. Honestly, attempting to pity those who support an author trying to make it does so much damage once that author finds out. Relationships across the board take some hits and all because you had no faith in the other person. See, how much easier it is to simply stay out of the way or avoid the topic?
Wow. This was a really long post. As you can guess, I needed to get something off my chest. I’m sure I’ll have some real world conversations coming out of this one from various blog spies. Whatever. I think this had to be said because an author is only as strong as his or her support team. At least that’s what I believe.