There are days when I swear that I’m far too insecure to be a writer. I mean, if there was a World Cup for stressing out about things, I would beat all y’all the way Germany beat Brazil! I may not give off those vibes all the time, but believe me, they’re there. I think they’re there with all of us creative types. My particular anxiety lately has been over what type of a writer I am.
As far as I see it (as determined by observation of my peers, particularly in the Romance world), writers are either tigers or dolphins.
Dolphins swim in packs (well, pods, to be precise). They are swift and beautiful and daring. They leap out of the water and do fabulous tricks, sunlight glittering off of the trail of water droplets they leave behind them. They are social animals and enjoy talking to each other, making noise, and entertaining crowds. Dolphins are awesome.
Tigers are loners. They pad through the jungle on silent feet, going after the things they want intensely. They hunt alone, preferring to stay hidden in the underbrush. But when they move in for the kill, boy do they get what they’re after! Tigers are beautiful animals, colorful and glorious, but they are solitary, maybe a little temperamental, and passionate. They don’t play well with others.
I, Merry Farmer, am a tiger writer. I absolutely thrive doing things on my own. This is the main reason I chose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route. I prefer to write on my own, edit with the help of a very few trusted professionals, and market through my brilliantly talented publicist. I enjoy writers conferences, but they sap every last ounce of my energy. I am not the writer you will find staying out late at the bar every night of a conference and whooping it up with other writers.
The thing is, I have a lot of writer friends who are dolphins. They excel at networking. They have formed author co-ops and pitched in together to create multi-author blogs. They cross-promote each other with their whole hearts. I love following the Facebook conversations they have with each other and seeing how well they get along. It’s so awesome!
I am completely incapable of having that kind of professional relationship with that many people. I am extraordinary wistful about the awesome bonds they have created. I totally want that…and I totally don’t.
Ah, the life of the contradictory artist! My big, stripy, tiger writer heart sighs with envy while at the same time being grateful I don’t have to expend that sort of energy being social. Where I start to stress out about the whole thing, though, is when I stop to wonder if the dolphins have the right idea.
Writer co-ops and author conglomerates are very in right now. With all the uncertainty in the publishing world, it can be comforting to band together with a group of like-minded peers. I have seen these groups accomplish some really snazzy stuff. They are able to position each other in strategic ways that solitary writers don’t have. I am a great admirer of the writer peer group.
So does this mean that writers should all join together in groups? Does it mean that we won’t find success unless we are dolphins?
That is exactly the question that stresses me out so much. Should I be making a bigger effort to go against my nature and become a part of one of these groups? Should all writers?
Ah, but here’s the thing. I also have a lot of writer friends who have found great deals of success going it on their own. In fact, a few of my fellow tiger writers are the ones who have hit the top of the Amazon charts, have garnered the most fans, and have landed on the USA Today Bestseller list. They didn’t do it through fostering connections with other writers, they did it by working hard on their own for the goals that matter to them.
So which type of a writer should any given writer try to be? Are tigers more successful than dolphins or vice versa?
Honestly, I think that comes down to the style of working that fits best with the individual writer in question. As for me, I think I need to learn to embrace my tiger-ass self. That’s the working style I feel most comfortable with and that allows me to do my best work. Another writer might feel exactly the opposite. They might work best with the accountability and support of their own pod. It really depends on who you are.
And so here is my advice to myself and to the other writers out there wondering if they’re “doing it right.” Stop stressing out about it. If you’re a tiger, embrace your tiger. If you’re a dolphin, live it up with the dolphins. A tiger wouldn’t survive for three seconds in a dolphin’s habitat and a dolphin couldn’t live a tiger’s life. There’s no need to spend energy wishing you were the other kind of writer when that energy could be put to better use WRITING. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you got the words on the page, it matters THAT you got them there.
But just out of curiosity, which kind of writer are you?
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