6 Ways To Tell the Difference Between a Supportive and Toxic Writer

It’s a topic writer’s rarely want to breach, but one that definitely warrants discussion. We all want to be humble in our craft, never appearing to be self-obsessed or over-confident or selfish in our abilities or intentions. We want to support writing in all forms, from all individuals, and are quick to give of ourselves, our time and our connections in order to grow the writing community. However, that same community is, unfortunately, filled with individuals that are more toxic than supportive. Being a writer is challenging and competitive, time-consuming and exhausting; a combination that can bring out the worst in certain individuals.

Danielle Campoamor-featuredDanielle Campoamor bookThis guest post is by Danielle Campoamor. Campoamor is a staff writer for Bustle’s Romper the author of A Twenty-Something Nothing. She’s also a full-time freelance writer and mother to a wide-eyed one year old. She’s been published in places like The Seattle Times, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Slate, Bustle, BuzzFeed Ideas and more. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


So, when you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded writers, or are meeting artists for the first time that appear friendly and authentic, it’s important to remember that guarding your craft, your passion and your career isn’t rude or self-serving. It’s just smart.

We want to think the best of people, especially the people that we share a mutual interest and/or passion with, but the truth of the matter is; as you gain popularity, experience and publishers, there are some people who will come into your life with intentions of hurting you, instead of helping, supporting or even just appreciating you. People can be manipulative, deceitful and opportunistic, and just because an individual identifies as a writer, doesn’t mean that they’re not above those characteristics. There’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself, and saying goodbye to people who embody these seven traits because, well, they’re nothing short of toxic.

1. They Lack Professional Courtesy

There’s nothing wrong with valuing your career over another’s. After all, it is your career. But there is something wrong with rolling over someone’s career, strong-arming them or stealing a potential opportunity from them, in order to get ahead. While the writing community can and usually does look different than a 9-5, there are still professional courtesies that should be adhered to. If someone refuses to do that, it’s a safe bet that they’re a toxic, malicious individual.

2. They Constantly Ask For Your Contacts’ Information

We all want to aid one another in achieving our goals, but if you meet someone who is constantly asking you for an editor’s contact information, or if you could get them in contact with a particular publication, chances are they’re more interested in who you know, than who you are as a person. It’s one thing to be upfront and honest about your intentions – especially in your field – but it’s another to hide your overall goal under layers of a fictitious friendship, relationship, or otherwise.

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3. They Try To Use Your Writing Process As Their Own

I, for one, think it’s productive to share your writing process with those who are willing. I also think it’s vital to take a good hard look at the processes other, more successful writers use, and see if any or all work for you. What I don’t think is helpful, but hurtful and indicative of negative intentions, is someone taking your writing process and applying it as their own automatically and without much thought. When someone wants to know every aspect of your writing procedure and adopts it as their own instead of testing or trying it initially, it’s a potential sign that they’re not willing to work for success, but would rather find the easiest possible way to obtain it.

4. They Don’t Willingly Exchange Information They Ask You For

If you’re always up to connect them with an editor or a hiring manager of a publication, but they aren’t wiling to do the same, you’re in a one-sided, unhealthy relationship. It’s a beautiful thing when writers support and assist one another, but if it isn’t reciprocated, it can be a horrific, unfair and hurtful thing. Any friendship, whether it’s with someone in your professional field or someone you’ve known for twenty years, should be mutually beneficial. If you feel like you’re always giving, and the other writer in your life is always taking, it’s time to pull the relationship rip chord.


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5. They’re Jealous Of You, And They’ve Told You That

There’s a healthy dose of jealous, and there’s an unhealthy dose of jealous. We’re all human, so feeling that very real, very valid and very demoralizing twinge of self-induced panic when you see someone succeeding where you have failed, is normal. However, if someone is constantly telling you that they’re jealous of you, wish you were you and can’t believe how “lucky” you are, they’re essentially downplaying the hard work you have been and continue to do. It’s not a compliment, it’s an insult, packaged in back-handed accolades they (probably) don’t mean.

6. They Hope You Fail

If this individual seems eerily happy when you announce that you’ve received a rejection letter or a disappointing email or didn’t get that staff writing job you so desperately wanted, cut them out of your writing circle immediately. Being a writer is difficult enough; there’s no reason to surround yourself with individuals that silently hope you fail, and rejoice when you inevitably do. You’ve invested far too much time, energy and practice into honing your craft to let someone vindictively wish it’s all for nothing.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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2 thoughts on “6 Ways To Tell the Difference Between a Supportive and Toxic Writer

  1. CC Hogan

    I have been approached by several authors asking if I want to review their books. There are a couple of reasons I won’t do this. I am so buried under my own projects that I just do not have time. But also, the idea of me, an author, reviewing another author’s work worries me, especially another indie author.

    To start with, apart from saying that I liked a book, I don’t think I am qualified. It will be a very subjective comment, and just because I am an author myself does not make my opinion better than anyone else’s.

    There is also the matter of a conflict of interest. If I was a vacuum cleaner maker, if I commented on another manufacturer’s product, my opinion would be very suspect. This can equally apply to writers too.

    It is interesting to note that the worst reviews I have received have been from other authors in the same genre. One non-author reviewer, who read one bad review commented, “how dare they? How dare they be so vicious to a fellow writer.”

    Authors should support each other. In the indie world, I think it is part of the deal, almost a duty. When an author writes a scathing review of someone else’s book, not only do they trash that person’s work, they make themselves look vicious and nasty. It benefits no one and only feeds the mealy-mouthed trolls out there and is offputting for other readers.

    I am sure there are loads of authors out there who will disagree and think that they have a duty to pulverise other writers who do not come up to the mark.

    They don’t.

    The joy of storytelling is that the stories come from many mouths, in many styles, and are told with many levels of competency. It is what makes it such a human thing and so wonderful. It should be celebrated, not censored.


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