Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are You Surrounding Yourself with Toxic Writers?

by +EdieMelson @EdieMelson

There are very few of us who can write in a vacuum. The actual act of writing is done in seclusion, but we gravitate to others who share our struggles. Sharing the journey can make success easier . . .  if we choose the right companions. So my question to you is this, have you chosen your tribe with care?

Or are you surrounding yourself with toxic writers?

None of us want to consider that there are those we should avoid, but there are. This doesn’t mean that we can’t encourage them from afar, or interact with them in certain situations. I’m not suggesting we become elitists, only banding together with those who have something to offer.

But I am suggesting we choose our traveling companions with care. Today I’m going to share some traits that might be a warning to keep your distance.

1. Writers who only talk about writing, but never produce anything of their own. These wanna-be scribes are interested in an exclusive club, not in the painful work it takes to succeed. Beware or their excitement with what might happen may replace your own willingness to put in the work necessary to get there.

2. Writers who always have an excuse for not producing anything. These are the first cousins of the group mentioned above. They always have a reason for not having anything to show for their time. Truthfully, we all have legitimate reasons not to write. It all boils down to what we’re willing to give up to follow our dreams.

3. Writers who always gossip about other writers. This type can range from subtle to blatant. Don’t get sucked in by their negativity. If they’re sharing gossip about others, you can bet they’re sharing gossip about you with others.

4. Writers who cannot accept honest critiques. These writers can range from those who get angry to those who want to argue every point. I’m here to tell you that there is very little in this world more painful than hearing something you wrote doesn’t measure up. But it’s that kind of feedback that will push us above average and onto publishing success.

5. Writers who put others down to build themselves up. Pointing out the mistakes other writers make is a seductive thing. If we’re not careful, we can set ourselves up as an expert at the expense of others. Sure we need to offer critiques, but we offer suggestions, never put down the effort.

6. Writers who legalistically follow the rules. These are the type who will argue commas and semi-colons for days. They can bring a productive critique session to a screeching halt with insisting everything in publishing is black and white and everyone must work the same way. The truth is that very few things in this industry are black and white.

7. Writers who insist that there is only one correct way to write. You’ll run into writers who outline and writers who work more intuitively (commonly referred to as seat-of-the-pants writers). The way you write has more to do with how you’re wired than convention. Don’t let anyone insist theirs is the only right way to do something.

8. Writers more interested in a life support group or relationship than in encouraging each other to write. There’s nothing wrong with sharing aspects of life with those we’re close to. I’m talking about that person who dominates every meeting with personal-life challenges.

9. Writers who put themselves above others after success. Yes, there are things to celebrate—contest wins, publishing contracts, etc. But success doesn’t mean we’re better than someone else. We all have contributions to make and need to remember that.

These are the things I’ve seen in others that can keep me from moving forward. Even scarier—these are things I’ve seen in MYSELF that can keep my companions from moving forward.

If you’re on the path with someone who’s turned toxic, you have reached a decision point. How long are you going to hang in before the relationship begins to hamper your forward motion? There’s no right answer to that question, only you can answer it for yourself. But we need to be aware of what’s going on around us its affect.

I’d love to know how you handle toxic traveling companions, and what traits you’d add to this list.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Surrounding yourself with even on toxic writer can hamper your own success - @EdieMelson shares why (Click to Tweet)


  1. When I was a child ... or a new writer, I was guilty of #6. I still stand by the "rules" in that we have to know them in order to break them with panache. I always say it comes down to the music of the prose. If it sings, go with it. :)

    1. I love that - "It comes down to the music of the prose." Excellent advice! Blessings, E

  2. A great post, Edie. I wish I would have known about this when I joined my first crit group. For one thing, I would have been better able to deal with some of the people who critted my work.

    I would also have been better able to crit the work of other people.

    I'm with Ane. These days I season every bit of writing advice with the caveat that the only rule that applies all the time is that a writer must write. Everything else is icing on the cake and subject to change.

    Thanks again.

    1. Carrie Lynn, I'm with you. These are the types of things I wish I'd known when I started. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Blessings, E

  3. Good list. I've been scarred by a couple of these, which is why I shy away from seeking critique and companionship from other writers. It's been getting better lately, though.

    1. Eduardo, I'm sorry you've run into some of these toxic types. I'm glad to see you're still reaching out. That shows a lot of courage and commitment! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, E