Sending the Elevator Back Down

December 10, 2016 | By | 9 Replies More

View More: years ago, I heard an author say that when a writer “makes it,” it becomes his or her job to send the elevator back down for those waiting their turn. It was a great way to encourage authors who’ve made it to the other side—who got the publishing deal or who’ve seen their book on shelves—to turn around and help those who come behind.

At the time that I heard these words, I was a determined writer working on my first novel (well, the first one after the under-the-bed novel that will likely never see daylight). I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be so far in the process that you could actually turn around and give a leg up to other aspiring authors.

It’s no shock to anyone familiar with the publishing industry that it truly does take a village (or at least a large handful of supportive people) to get a book from a computer hard drive to a bookstore shelf. You can write in a vacuum—with the door locked tight, the windows covered, earbuds in place, blinders on—but getting that book out into the world generally takes more than just you.

That’s when other writers and authors can come in to play. When you’re standing at the proverbial bottom, looking up at others on higher floors with their published novels in hand, it is an amazing feeling when someone sends that elevator back for you.

Now, don’t get too excited. That elevator probably isn’t going to contain a publishing contract with a pen at the ready for you to sign on the dotted line. It’s more likely to contain advice, encouragement, or camaraderie. For writers who do much of their work alone, this kind of support is priceless.

51zxewdpfwlAround the time I started drowning in the dreaded middle of The Hideaway, I got in the habit of writing to authors who’d made an impact on me and my writing. I wasn’t trying to get anything out of them. I just wanted to let them know their words had found their way to me and they’d made a difference. Imagine my surprise when a few of them wrote me back. Clyde Edgerton. Nancy Turner. Carolyn Haines. Lydia Netzer.

These and other writers took time out of their schedules to respond to a random email sent through their websites. They could have just deleted the email—or maybe responded with a general “Thank you for writing and while you’re here, please check out my latest book.” Instead, they gave precious words of encouragement, words that helped me push through writer’s block and finish particularly difficult chapters. They kept me from closing the computer on hard days and giving up. They reminded me that writing a book is about more than just getting people to read your words—it’s about connecting to others in a world that can often make people feel lonely and broken.

A few years later, I did get that publishing contract, but do you know what sparked it? An author friend sent the elevator back for me. It took the form of her offering to pass my synopsis on to an editor friend of hers. “Why not?” I thought. Having been in the querying trenches for several disappointing months, I didn’t expect much from it. However, this editor liked my story enough to pass it on to yet another editor.

The ball started rolling and now I find myself in a place where I can turn around and do for others what people have done for me. Being a newcomer to the publishing world, I don’t have near as much experience (or clout) as others have, but what I can offer is that encouragement, support, and camaraderie that was so crucial for me as I persisted in what often felt like a fruitless endeavor.  The ability to connect with other writers and readers through shared experiences is more than exciting—it’s why I write.

On the whole, writers are a generous bunch. The whole process—from brainstorming, writing, and editing to revising, querying, and waiting, waiting, waiting—is hard and it helps to feel like you have someone holding your hand or shouting encouragement from the corner of the ring.

Now, as I prepare for The Hideaway’s entrance into the world, I often turn to author friends with questions regarding promotion, writing my next book, marketing, book launches, and how exactly you go about creating those cute little text images and graphics authors throw around on social media. Without fail, they come forward with open arms and generous advice.

When writers help other writers, the cycle just continues. Viewed this way—that we’re in this thing together—it takes away any tendency for jealousy or envy among writers, because we all remember that we were once at the bottom, waiting for someone else to send the elevator back for us.

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two young daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.

Connect with Lauren on her website, on find her on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook





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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

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  1. Sue Cook's Writing Blog | September 1, 2017
  1. Lauren, no, I don’t think anyone goes to the bottom of the elevator ride, but she may feel very discourages. How lovely that you found support in other authors. I had a wonderful experience this morning. I had to call a friend about an appointment, and I said, “We’ll talk again soon.” She told me she is aware that women like me who work at home shouldn’t be interrupted. That’s the first time I have heard that, though my neighbors surely know this.Anyway, a little gem came to me. Mary Latela

  2. Heather says:

    I recently attended my first writers’ conference and discovered the beautiful thing that is a writing community. Writing can be lonely (especially when my imaginary friends refuse to come out and play), and the support and camaraderie of other writers is, indeed, priceless. Thank you for your generosity and sending the elevator back down!

    • Hi Heather! Conferences–or anywhere writers gather–can be so encouraging. It’s always good to feel that sense of community and to know there are others doing what you’re doing–writing, struggling, working through knots and walls and hopefully coming into new territories and open spaces. Good luck in getting those imaginary friends to play nicely 😉

  3. Nice article and congrats on your book! I look forward to reading it. My book was published one year ago and while I still consider myself a newbie author, I’m always willing to mentor and help other writers and bloggers when I can. Everything comes full circle. I’m adding your book to my Goodreads list!

    • Thanks Talya! I love that much of the writing community is so generous and welcoming. It makes it all less daunting and more fun! Thanks for the add on Goodreads. I’m looking you up now!

  4. Thanks Caroline. Yes, the reminder is good, even for me!

  5. This is a great article and so very true. Made me think a lot about people who have helped my writing career and those I have tried to help. Many thanks for reminding me x

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