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  • [BREAKFAST WITH THE MUSE] The Care and Feeding of Your Posse
[BREAKFAST WITH THE MUSE] The Care and Feeding of Your Posse
Written by
Jill Jepson
February 2016
Written by
Jill Jepson
February 2016

I try to avoid absolutes, but I’m going to say this without qualification: The best thing you can do for your writing life is to create a community.

Writing is often described as a lonely pursuit. The core of our work is solitary. Most of us write by ourselves, telling our stories and creating our poems alone. But there is another side to the writing life, one that is all about community, partnership, and collaboration. The best thing a writer can do for herself is create a circle of people who support and foster her writing. I call those people my posse—and they have made all the difference in my writing life.

Your posse isn’t just a group of friends (although friends are an important part). A good posse consists of all those people who offer you help, information, guidance, emotional support, and knowledge. They are your most capable advisors, your most insightful critics, and your staunchest fans. I think of my posse as having several types of “members.”

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The Professionals

These are the people who provide expert services: teachers, coaches, editors, agents. I’m surprised when I hear from writers who don’t make use of these invaluable services—who never take a class, work with a coach, or hire an editor—because I can’t imagine where my career would be without the professionals I’ve worked with over the years.

Not just any professional will do for your posse. You must make sure the people you choose are right for you. I’ve worked with editors whose visions for my work didn’t jibe with my own, with teachers who were unkind rather than helpful, and a coach or two who was simply clueless. I’ve also worked with professionals who saved my writing life when I was floundering hopelessly.

A good posse should include not just professionals who will work with you, but the right professionals. People with know-how, empathy, and flexibility—people who are willing to use those skills in the way that best suits your needs.

Other Writers

Your posse absolutely must include other writers.

No one understands writing like another writer. Writers listen to your woes with the compassion that comes from shared experience. They celebrate your successes in a way non-writing friends can’t because only they know how hard success is to come by for writers. They offer invaluable advice because they know the ropes.

Since you are on SheWrites, you are already building a community of fellow writers. I have also met writers in classes, at conferences, in writing groups, on Facebook, and standing in line at the bank. Reach out to other writers. Get to know them. Hang out with them. They are gold.

Your Fans

When I use the word “fan” here, I don’t just mean people who buy your books or read your stories. I mean all the people in your life who read, enjoy, evaluate, comment on, and share your work just because they like it. That might include your life partner, your friends, family members, even co-workers. It can also include people you’ve never met but who connect in some way to say how much your work has meant to them. Anyone who is excited when one of your poems is published, who looks forward to reading your blog each week, who gives you honest feedback when you ask for it, who spreads the word about your work—these are your fans.

Your Role

Creating a community is a two-way street. It isn’t enough to have good professionals in your life; You must also be a courteous and reliable client. It’s great to have supportive writer friends, but you must be supportive of them in return. Having fans who celebrate your work is a wonderful thing, but it’s important that you let them know they are appreciated. Creating a community isn’t just about gathering good people around you. It’s also about giving something back.

Having a good posse changes a cold, lonely writing life into a warm, lively one. You still work in solitude, of course—that is the nature of the writing life for most of us—but that solitude will be framed with love and support.

Who belongs to your posse? Do you have a supportive circle? What do you do to grow and nourish a caring community?

Hi, I'm Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path. Your can get my free ebookletCalling Up the Writer Within: A Short Guide to Writing at 50 & Beyond here.

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