It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

Written by Ryan R. Campbell

Ryan R. Campbell is an International Book Awards finalist, the founder of the Writescast Network, and the co-founder of Kill Your Darlings Candle Company.

Posted on December 7, 2020

Filed under On Writing

It’s hardly a secret that I’ve had far too many pots on the stovetop since 2019. Dating back to 2018, in fact, I’ve been isolating myself from corners of the community with which I was once engaged, all in the interest of stirring those pots, in reaching nameless, faceless prospective readers who would one day, I convinced myself, pick up my work.

If you’ve followed my journey this year, it’s equally unsurprising to learn these misadventures were little more than folly.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m grateful for the friendships that have blossomed in the aftermath of Writescast Network interviews and in my inbox, but so many interactions over the last couple of years have felt transient and transactional.

And I don’t want transient. I don’t want transactional.

That’s why, earlier this year, I elected to suspend my coaching services. I elected to shut down the Writescast Network. I elected, instead, to focus on my writing.

This may seem counterintuitive. Isn’t focusing on one’s work inherently more isolating than regularly working alongside other writers to help them improve their work? Isn’t it less personal than interviewing them for a podcast episode?

Yes, but also no.

By putting my writing first, I’ve freed up the mental and emotional space I need to truly engage with those closest to me, both within the writing world and without. This engagement has come in many forms, but the one truism undergirding them all is that I’ve had to say yes to bring every last one of them to fruition.

This might seem like a 180 coming from the guy who advocated for the power of no earlier this year. But remember: in that same space, we discussed the importance of yes as well, and we regularly need to say yes to that which is important to us if we’re to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Saying Yes to (the Right Kind of) Community

Let’s not hypercorrect. This isn’t about giving a great big hug to every little thing that comes our way. On the contrary, we need to evaluate that which is important to our creative endeavors—not to mention that which is important to self-actualization—before saying yes.

For me, I’ve taken a two-pronged approach to saying yes.

First, I made it a goal to establish and maintain regular contact with more of the people in my immediate circle. Whether on Twitter and Instagram, through my email inbox, or by phone (text), I committed to becoming and remaining invested in the creatives closest to me.

Has this always been easy? No. We’re in the midst of the holiday season, after all, which, though less complicated as a result of non-existent travel plans this year, has still proven challenging as my wife and I navigate our first end-of-year as owners of Kill Your Darlings Candle Company.

That aside, however, I’m happy to have opened—and kept open—these channels as much as possible during an otherwise difficult time. Those with whom I’ve corresponded and I have been able to support each other directly, consistently, and without that air of transient transactionality hanging overhead.

One might call this friendship. *winks*

The second prong of my approach has been to return to writerly critique groups.

This, much like focusing on my writing, might feel counterintuitive. I did say, yes, that working as a writing coach was too mentally and emotionally exhausting, but participating in critique groups is different. Why?

The stakes are lower, and it’s through critique groups that I can improve my work, too.

By the former, I mean there’s no financial transaction in play. Deadlines are more loose, and the relationships are more personal than professional. And isn’t that what I wanted?

It is, yes. It is.

And the second point—that I can improve my own work by saying yes to those critique communities—has been an even greater boon that I expected: I’m enjoying the reading, I’m improving my work, and, yes, I’m making new friends.

And those friends? They mean more than nameless, faceless prospective readers ever could.

The Final Boon

Among my goals for the final three months of the year was to revisit Scambait and give it a tune up for querying in early 2021.

The good news? Those in my critique groups really seem to be enjoying it thus far.

The bad news? Even within that positive feedback, I’m discovering new ways to sharpen the story that I never would have discovered after limited beta feedback.

So, I revise. I write on. I do this and more, much like I did over the course of the last couple of years, but I no longer do it alone.

You’re here with me now, and I’m with you. After all, it’s dangerous to go alone.

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