There is a lot of talk on blogs and in books about finding your "tribe" - a group of people with whom you can identify and who form the natural audience for your work. There is a lot of merit to this idea, however, it is usually reiterated in the context of marketing and promoting one's work.
I recently found out that it is equally, maybe even more important to find your tribe in the intermediate stages of the creative process. At an event that I attended recently (the launch of a book in which I have a co-authored chapter), I met an ex-colleague who is now also a full-time writer - of fiction. We hadn't met in a long time, and amidst catching up on life events we discussed some of the vagaries of the writing process, and life being a writer. It was a short dialogue, as the primary purpose of the event was to network, and I had to leave shortly after.
The few minutes casually discussing perspectives with another writer, even though she writes in very different genres, was more validating than I had imagined. I haven't belonged to a writer's group, as I have been officially writing for only a short while, and was afraid to put too many labels on what I was doing, lest I become constrained by those labels. I find it hard enough to write without undue pressure and constant questions regarding the work.
In fact, that was partly what we talked about. My friend, the writer, writes what I would classify as literary fiction, while I write only non-fiction. I always imagined that the approach and the experiences would be different writing such different material - but when I heard her describing her challenges with her current book, I could instantly relate. More so, it validated many of my own concerns.
I am confident that the need for acknowledgement, the need to share daily struggles exists in every creative endeavor. While some are more naturally collaborative mediums, some arts require weeks and months of solitary effort to produce something. Often the end product may be less than what you imagined, or it may not be received as well as you were hoping. At such times, the journey has to be worth it, because for now it may be all you have. It really helps to hear that from someone other than your mom or significant other, which is where the tribe comes in. A timely reassurance, the acknowledgement that someone else is going through the same thing, may keep you going for a little while longer, hopefully long enough to finally create that masterpiece!
Who is in your tribe and when do you reach out to them?