Monday, July 30, 2012

Who Surrounds You?

We’ve been told to be careful with who we hang out with our whole lives, starting with our parents warning us about wayward friends.  Most cautions were not in judgment against them, but for our protection.  When we became teenagers and thought we knew everything, we began making those decisions for ourselves, some resulting in huge mistakes.   This is all part of growing up.  Now that we’re adults, we need to use the wisdom we’ve gathered through our lives to this point, including both from our parents and our mistakes, but this doesn’t need only apply to our friends. As writers we must apply this principle to the people with whom we network in the business. 

A person is usually judged by the friends surrounding them, just as a writer is judged by whom they choose to network.   It is very important that we align ourselves with where we want to go and what we want to achieve, not necessarily where we currently stand.  It is a fact that if a person desires promotion, they must act and dress for the position they want, not the position they currently hold. If you want to be successful, you must align yourself with those who’ve succeeded, not be constantly surrounded by failure. 

Take an assessment.  Who are you investing your time and attention?  To those you admire and respect, or with those who want to hold you back?  Do the people around you encourage, inspire, and incite you to push through, to reach higher, to take another step, or do they accomplish nothing themselves and complain about those who do?  Do all the people around you only placate and pat you on the back, but never offer good, solid, sometimes hard, criticism to push you to your boundaries?  Platitudes are great, but only for the ego. 

A true writer should desire the truth, in a pursuit to improve and perfect their craft, but most often the artistic ego can’t handle the truth or constructive criticism.  An egotist only desires to stroke the ego.  Since becoming a writer and delving into the artistic world, I’ve never met more narcissistic people than those in the artistic guilds.  They’re mostly a bunch of snobs.  I don’t quite understand where this pretentiousness and elitist attitude extends from, but the air is thick with them, and usually the snootiest of the bunch is the one who holds the least amount of natural talent. Combine that with the one-trick ponies, which after twenty years have yet to display another gem of their genius, and it’s easy to find yourselves in company that is designed to hold you back and lead to failure or stagnation.

Be careful with whom you align.  Choose those who sow wisdom, knowledge, encouragement and truth into your life and career, not just their opinions.  Be selective which fellow authors you network with – do they write, market, inspire and encourage the way you hope?  If not, let them go, or else they will drag you down to their level.  However, please be careful not to block opportunities to sow into others who’ve yet to reach your level of success.  Just as you look to move up into the world of success, don’t forget to be a helping hand to others.  Whatsoever you do to the least of these …will be done to you.  Whatsoever you sow, that also shall you reap.  What you do FOR others reflects more on who you are, more than anything you can say.

Seek the opinions and reviews of those with the highest and strictest levels of excellence, and not your friends.  True friends tell you what you ‘need’ to hear, not what you ‘want’ to hear.  However, in my experience, there are few ‘true’ friends in this world, and those who try are often rejected because the recipient’s ego can’t handle the harsh truths that sometimes have to be said.  I’ve lost many of so-called friends because I’ve dared to tell the truth.  But I appreciate everyone in my life who’s dared to sow the truth to and in me.  Because of them, I’ve enhanced my craft and pushed myself to yet another level of excellence. 

I encourage you today.  Seek the next level above you. Write something that pushes you to the edge of your ability and beyond.  Seek a network connection that will help you take a step up.  Reach out to another author in whom you admire and respect, and to whom you are a huge fan.  Take a chance and submit a query to a bigger agent or publisher.  Request a review from someone you know is truthful, yet harsh, and whom you fear may give you hard criticism.  And, look for someone you can lend a hand or bit of encouragement. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray


  1. Tonya, you are a perfect example of a true friend. You encourage, yet, you are very truthful with your edits. Not only do you take the time out of your very busy schedule to edit a friend's work, you also offer expert advice. You have def. helped one of the least of these (me)! Thank you!

  2. Awww, shucks! Thanks, Laura. I NEEDED this post today for ME.
    This is something I have to constantly remind myself.