My writing origins were distinctly late and shaky, self-conscious and fragile. I don't think I would have carried on this long, certainly not to the point of having a fully-written novel under my belt (OK, publication is still in the mists of fantasy land, but that's another story) without the support and encouragement of other writers.
There's the personal touch of others in my critique groups, many in much the same position, struggling to polish up their creations to be aired in public. Then there are others in the blogging world, the high flyers, with significant publications to their name, who still take the time to come down to ground level and encourage the up-and-comers.
Even industry professionals often blog with advice and support for writers at all levels. There may not be the same personal interaction - these folks have followers in the thousands, after all - but the openness and welcome is the same.
Now, the strange thing is that, in contrast with my unlikely entry into writing, I was practically born with a paintbrush in my hand. Some of my earliest memories are of colouring and drawing. I remember drawing Daleks at the age of three when Dr. Who first aired on British TV.
In later years I read voraciously. It wasn't the writing I tried to emulate, however, it was the cover art.
Throughout my school years, nobody I knew drew or painted like I did. I won the art prize each year, even though I didn't take art as a subject. In retrospect, this probably pissed off the people who were studying it, and I think now it was rather unfair. Some of them were good, certainly more technically accomplished than me, they just weren't doing the kinds of work I was doing.
So imagine my delight and anticipation when I went to university, which drew together talented people from all over the country. There would be other artists there. Good artists. People I could talk to about arty things.
Does this scenario sound familiar to all you budding writers? Maybe those joining a critique group or going to a writing conference for the first time?
The trouble is, I wasn't an artist. I was a mathematician.
The fact that I drew and painted was immaterial. The fact that my friends liked what I was doing probably made it worse. Other artists, "real" artists, were unanimously snide and dismissive. I think they took the view that if a non-artist liked a painting, then clearly it wasn't art, daahhhling.
No. Art had to be obscure, deeply meaningful - but only to a self-selecting elite - and could only, ever, evuh, be done by a member of that same self-selecting elite.
So my dreams of being taken seriously by the artistic community withered. I still draw, I still paint, occasionally, but I long ago stopped trying to be taken seriously by those purveyors of preciousness. Life's too short.
Contrast this with the attitude in the writing world, where a highly respected industry professional, the formidable Janet Reid, renowned for her non-nonsense opinions, can say the following:
Make no mistake about this: if you have written and finished a novel you ARE a writer. Don't let anyone, particularly some snotty so-called publishing professional, demean this achievement. You've written a novel = you're a writer.
That is why I'm still writing.
So, what's been your experience of the writing community? And do you have other communities with which to compare and contrast?