In almost every school or library author visit, I am asked the same question: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?”
And of course, the best answers are those you’ve probably heard many times before: Read a lot! Write a lot! Butt in chair!
And yes, by all means, do those things, and do them with dedication. But I have one more suggestion that has made a critical difference in my writing life, and it’s a little bit of a secret.
Find your Trusted Reader.
Once you’ve written something that feels good and satisfying, ready for outside eyes, find a trusted reader and share it with them. It can’t be just anyone. You may have to secretly audition several people before you discover the one who qualifies for the formal title with the capital letters.
Your Trusted Reader will be the person who, when they’ve read and responded to your work, leaves you feeling eager and excited to get back to your desk to write more. That’s it. That’s the only qualification. They may also be someone who can offer actionable feedback, like a critique partner or a fellow creator, or they may simply be someone who reads for pleasure, like your best friend or a family member. It doesn’t matter. The most important thing is how you feel once they’ve read it. And the crazy part is, they probably won’t even realize the gift they’ve given you. Through the mysterious alchemy created between your hard work and their generous heart, your Trusted Reader unknowingly partners with you to form a positive feedback loop that keeps you excited to write and share with them.
And that’s different from your critique partners, paid critiques from industry pros, and workshops. All those resources—which are critical to mastering your craft—focus on building your skill. They’ll provide action steps and questions to strengthen your work. On the other hand, your Trusted Reader motivates you to write more, and they do it simply be being who they are.
I’ve had a few Trusted Readers over my writing life. My dear dad, the occasional husband, and a few scattered teachers and friends. I don’t think I’ve ever had more than two or three at any given time. Sometimes it was only one. But one is all you need, because once you experience sharing your writing with someone and wanting to write more as a result, your butt is back in your chair and you’re doing it.