Why Every Writer Needs Support

Editor’s Note: the original version of this article was first posted on the C2C in 2010.

“In the 1950s, the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, raised considerable interest in the scientific community because of its strikingly low rate of death from coronary heart disease. Epidemiologists began to study the Rosetans, expecting to find low levels of the major risk factors of coronary heart disease: cigarette smoking, fat consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. They got a big surprise.

The Rosetan’s health habits were no different from those of other Americans. They had similar risk factors. It turned out that the protective factor was actually the intimate social fabric of the community. The extended family was alive and well in this homogeneous Italian-American community. People tended to stay within Roseto, and so there was a great deal of closeness. People knew one another, their family histories, their joys and sorrows. In Roseto there were plenty of people to listen and to lend a hand when needed.

In the 1960s, as Roseto became more Americanized and less close-knit, the rate and severity of heart attacks rose to the national level. In the 1990s the original researches, using data from death certificates, conducted a fifty-year study of Rosetans, and confirmed their findings. Close family ties and a cohesive community turned out to be more important than health habits in predicting heart disease.” – from Minding the Body, Mending the Mind (Bold added.)

I found this quote fascinating. Building community is preventative medicine!

I should say that I was always big on being independent and attempting to do everything on my own until very recently. For me, the path from childhood to young adulthood was all about becoming more and more independent. Learning how to deal with life’s difficulties on my own and becoming stronger for it. There was a sense of pride in all that. But that idea has been changing for me, very drastically.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the path from young adulthood to adulthood seems to be one where we have to humble ourselves and learn how to reach out for that help and support we had learned to live without in the past, when we were striving to be fiercely independent. I think the above quote argues for this very idea. We simply cannot achieve our personal goals alone.

Well I guess technically we can do it alone, but it is certainly not beneficial for us. It actually adversely affects our health if we choose to close ourselves off from a community or a family and do things alone. We’re humans and we’re born to be part of the whole.  Community support is often an overlooked, underestimated, but important tool for every writer.

Anyone who has ever achieved tremendous success has never done it alone. There’s always a loving wife or husband, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or mentor, or agent that they could not have done it without.

I encourage you to reach out for support and help if you ever need it. If your friends are not supportive of your goals, please consider getting other friends, now that you know your circle directly affects your health. So keep a good circle. Protect yourself from negativity or cynics who pass themselves off as “reality checkers.” Hold on to your own. I’ll try to do the same, too.

During these tough times, more than ever, it’s important to remember: we simply cannot thrive alone in our little introverted worlds, where we have some kind warped idea that we are a failure if we ask for help or support. Fellow artists and non-artists, if you feel yourself begin to despair, seek support. It’s literally some of the best medicine for your body.

much love,

Ollin

What are ways in which you reach out for support?

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38 comments on “Why Every Writer Needs Support

  1. Interesting information. I’m a teacher, so I provide as much support as I can to evolving minds and bodies. For myself, I turn to my family. We are very close and I thank God every day for that.

    • Ollin says:

      Family is a wonderful think. I have an amazing family myself. Without them I would be lost. I am very very grateful for that.

  2. Conor Ebbs says:

    Spot on Ollin. I need my support network regularly to draw me from going to far within myself. I chose to live alone and devote myself to creating a body of work. I have learned much about the dangers of relying solely on yourself.

    Solitude is very important, for reflection and self-awareness, but without the balance of time with friends and family, it’s not healthy, I believe.

    The online community has been a great source of support for me, I must say, you included.

    So thank you.🙂

    • Ollin says:

      Aw Conor. That is very nice of you to say. I’m glad I could be of help. What you said was right, and I couldn’t have said it better myself so I’ll just say I agree and zip it.

  3. Thanks for a great reminder — my very favorite part of blogging/tweeting, etc., is the wonderful support from other writers. Thank YOU, Ollin, for your support and encouragement! As you say, it is so important!

  4. Ollin, you’ve done it again–drawn parallels between life in general and the writing life…

    That service alone puts you in the good graces of the writing-gods🙂

    I published a few books about six years ago and didn’t reach out to anyone. I also didn’t promote them…

    My book that will soon be published was a different story. I sought feedback from the day I was struck by my Muse with the Mission to create it. I strove, mightily, to find and curry the proper friendships as I was writing it–sending out many copies of many versions of the manuscript…

    The whole Community of Interest is a great support as I approach the culmination of the first phase of the seemingly never-ending tasks associated with self-publishing. In fact, I’m not “self”-publishing. My book was raised by a Village🙂

    • Ollin says:

      We’ll I’m glad I’m in the writing god’s good graces. I’m so glad you’ve been reaching out with your latest work. Your right. The more I think about it the more writing my book is really taking a village. Good luck to you!

  5. Marcia says:

    Striving for independence in youth is essential for developing our ability to function as adults…we all go through that stage. You, and the article you quoted, are right…people need other people to stay healthy. Without a community of relationships life is not as healthful, rich, or satisfying. People need to be needed and to connect with one another. Thanks for posting this, Ollin, since too many writers isolate themselves for long periods in order to get work done. In my opinion, more work gets done when your emotional side is cared for.

    • Ollin says:

      Wonderfully summarized Marcia, as always. Yes, all writers, including myself need to be reminded of this. It’s one of those lessons that need to be re-learned again and again. Thanks!

  6. timkeen40 says:

    I think it is very important to have friends, especially as a writer. I have a couple that I rely on almost exclusively. They are writers themselves and know what kind of a mind that it takes to be a writer. They are also there to help with the most illusive thing of all when it comes to writing – honest, useful, criticism.

    Thanks for this great post.

    http://timkeen40.wordpress.com

    • Ollin says:

      Yes, Tim. That is right. All writers need honest, useful, criticism. The key here is HONEST and USEFUL. Right? Too many writers think that useless criticism is okay, or they think that people being dishonest and just being nice to them about their work–in other words lying–is good for them, too, because it boosts self-esteem. But the truth is no writer wants to be lied to, we want you to tell us the truth, but we want what you give us tools that are useful. Don’t waste our time by bringing us down and not giving us a point of improvement. Anyways, good point!

  7. Cities of the Mind says:

    Ollin, really liked this post, one of your better ones.

    I doubt you’re wrong, but I had personally always thought of the the move from young adulthood into adulthood as moving from the world of children to the world of adultery.

    • Ollin says:

      Oh, Mr. Rickett. So fuuhnny.

      • Cities of the Mind says:

        My life’s a joke, but at least I’m in on it.

        Seriously, though, you’ve been producing a lot of high-quality articles lately, I’ve been repeatedly impressed. And you are absolutely right about how important it is to have a support structure, particularly one that’s looking out for your best interest.

        Anyway, keep it up man.

        • Ollin says:

          Why, thank you Mr. Rickett. I try my best. Your support and that of my other readers are incredibly important to me. THAT is what keeps ME going. Thank you.

  8. Christina says:

    What a wonderful article, Ollin, and how important it always is to remind us all that reaching out for a helping hand can make the difference between hope and despair.

    One of the saddest and unfortunately one of the most common things we hear about on the news is how individuals are driven to tragedy because no one heard their plea for help and no one bothered to ask if help was needed.

    A tight-knit community and close friends and family could do more than just promote good health – their support can make the difference quite literally between life and death.

    One thing to keep in mind, though: family members aren’t necessarily helpful or supportive. Sometimes the people you assume you can turn to for support can turn out to be the most detrimental to your well-being, hope and self-esteem. And it’s precisely because of their supposed proximity to you that they can inflict the most harm.

    My humble and unfortunately hard-earned advice is this: weed out the people – friends or family members- who bring you down with their actions or words and focus on the people who are truly there for you. Who won’t belittle you. And who help and support you without expecting anything in return other than your love.

    In this case, yes, friends and family can add years and value to your life and literary journey.

    • Ollin says:

      That’s an excellent point Christina, and really well said. I was going to put that but thought I might be misunderstood. Because I couldn’t word it correctly. But yes, sometimes family may not be the most supportive. Certain family members may be more supportive than others, or just may know more how to support you in a better way than others. It’s definitely a good recommendation to tread lightly and keep supportive people around you, and keep those who are unsupportive at a greater distance.

  9. Christina says:

    I guess it comes down to “editing” your family circle:)

  10. styleandstylability says:

    Awesome insights. I totally believe that everyone needs some kind of support along the way. A friend once told me that part of being strong is knowing when to be weak and letting others share your load. I think that was the best advice I ever got. As for reaching out to get support – I believe in having multiple support systems including family and friends, as a writer and entrepreneur I decided to start a tribe by going out and finding like minded people who have been on a similar journey as me and can guide me and encourage me to keep going without any judgement. It has served me well on my hardest days when I could not believe in my own mission. Thank you for an excellent post Ollin.

  11. Gina says:

    Thank you for this post. Our culture remains so resistant to acknowledging that all people need help. We have championed the idea of independence to death–as if we would lose our individuality by sharing and nurturing.

    It’s ironic to me that so many blogs on writing are driven for the dollar, at the expense of substance, integrity and growth. People trying to get ahead–the very cutthroat corporate mentality they think they are running from.

    Please keep up your thinking here! We need it. How nice to read a blog written with human values. Life and writing should be a joy, not a painful competition. Thanks.

    • Ollin says:

      I agree with you. I still love independence and individualism, but in healthy doses. I think we need to move back to tradition a little bit, and remember that in the end we are all in this together. We are a community.

      Well, with that kind of encouragement, I will keep going!

  12. Marvin says:

    Thanks for the encouraging post, Ollin. One that reaches from the neighbors down the street to all around the globe. I think we all needed that.

  13. 83October says:

    A friend sent me a link to a Ted talk that spoke of communities with high life expectancy and they found that aside from similar healthy diets, the groups had a close community. More than just getting support from the community, the elderly of the groups still saw their purpose in relation to passing on their wisdom to the younger generation. And maybe that’s why we can never be islands. Writers need support (cheerers and constructive critics) and an audience who are willing to listen and read. Writing after all, as isolated as it may seem an activity, finds its completion in being able to give to people—to its reader.

  14. indowaves says:

    It’s true that individualism in the long run proves to be disastrous.

  15. Rob F. says:

    It’s been a tricky journey, Ollin. A few years ago my wife and I moved from a big city to a small tropical one, and while the lifestyle change has ben great overall, we left some good mates behind and haven’t had much success forming bonds in our local community.

    That said, though, one of the first things I did when I dceided I was going to make an effort to write last year was find and join a local writer’s group. We meet at the beginning of almost every month, which is a good way to both keep honest in terms of writing work and get exposed to different ways of writing. Still, while I’ve met some good people I’m not quite sure I’d call them a support network yet.

    Then again, maybe it’s me who’s the cagey one. When I think about it, maybe I need to work on keeping in better touch with the folks whom I do like.

    • Ollin says:

      I remember when I moved to Northern California for college it was really hard the first year or so. It takes such a long time to form deep bonds with people. I’m sure all its going to take is time.

      And I’m glad you are trying to reach out to your writer’s circle. I think as long as you’re trying, I think that is a great sign. Good luck to you and your wife.

  16. I like how you opened this article. It’s fascinating how our interconnectedness is vital to our health!

    For writers, it is even more vital. I’ve been around writers for almost twenty years and it’s almost unanimous – we feel heard, seen and understood by our fellow scribblers in ways we don’t by our other loved ones. It’s so important to be ‘gotten’ in this way – the writing journey can be tough, but with writing peers, it’s so much easier.

    Without my writing buddies and peers, I wouldn’t have written my book and e-books and I wouldn’t be about to cross the finish line with my novel.

    Thanks for reminding us how important connection is!

    • Ollin says:

      That is very true. That’s why my online writing community is important to me. They get me more than my friends can, at least in a writer’s sense and that’s just as important. I’m glad you had the support to get you through all your books!

  17. RG Pyper says:

    YES! I read this post when you first posted it, didn’t comment because I was busy, but just had to come back and tell you now how much it’s impacted me! I’ve long believed that a healthy community is vital to each of us but I didn’t know it could effect our physical health so much. From now on I will be less concerned about my body and more concerned about who I’m impacting, embracing, allowing to help, and who I’m living right next to. Im inspired to get to know my neighbors better.

    Thanks, Ollin. (PS I’m trying out my new profile/gravatar/”identity” – is it working?)

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