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Friday, February 05, 2016

Be Warned: Toxic Writing Companions Can Spoil Your Chance of Success

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Toxic writers can affect your own publishing success.
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?

Be warned: toxic writing companions can spoil your 
chance of success.

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.

Take a no-excuses-allowed attitude.
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.

Avoid those who put others down to build themselves up.
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.

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Awesome advice, Edie! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Edie, I agree with all these warning signs. These folks are out there--and the sooner a fledgling writer recognizes and avoids them, the better. Thanks for sharing good advice.


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