Last week I shared with you guys how writers need both the support of a writing community and solitude in which to create. These are two sides of a coin, inseparable. Writing is a solitary profession when it comes to the molding and shaping of Story; however, a successful writing career must be built on a solid foundation of unbreakable community.
I summed it all up by encouraging you to be social solitary writers. That is a thing—I declare it so!
Today I wanted to go deeper into defining and exploring community. I’m going back to my journalism roots with seven great questions to get us to the answers we need.
1. Who is a writing community for and who makes up that community?
The obvious answer would be “for writers; by writers.” However, I’m going to disagree a bit. Sure, that’s the core of what you will find; but people other than writers can benefit from a writing community—readers, teachers, librarians, parents, students, leaders, artists and word lovers. I have some of each category in my community, and I’m thankful for each and every one and for the unique perspectives they bring as well as the knowledge, encouragement and viewpoint I can share with them.
2. What can a writing community do …
Phew! Where do I begin? Honestly this question musters more answers than a simple blog post can contain. Let me break it down a bit as I attempt to give a few answers.
…for the world?
Strong writing communities produce strong writers who produce strong writing which produces strong reactions, emotions and thoughts which translate to stronger readers and stronger societies.
…for the reader?
You saw one answer to this above, but I would add that readers within a writing community strengthen the sense of ownership they feel with books. The more involved readers are, the more influence they have on writers and the words they produce.
…for the writer?
Let me count the ways!
Youthful?? (You come up with a positive character trait beginning with a “y;” seriously, please do and share with me!!)
3. Where can I find a writing community?
Look around! They’re everywhere…or can be everywhere, if you know how to look. “Online” pops up as the first (and sometimes easiest) answer. Writing groups, support groups, critique groups, forums, chat rooms, etc. exist in overabundance. You can find them on your favorite social media platforms or with a quick search or by searching your chosen genre or by your geographic location. If you find one near you, that leads to face-to-face conversations and interactions.
How about your house? Who do you live with? Boom—built-in writing community! Live by yourself? Do you have neighbors? Boom—potential writing community within walking distance! Do you have friends? Boom—starting to get the picture? Do you have a library in your community? Boom—librarians are perfect! Plus, most libraries offer special programs like book clubs, writing seminars, etc. Go to them, participate, meet people and grow your community!
4. When should you seek out a writing community?
Now. Next question …
Okay … to be much less snarky … I would say your writing communities will evolve as your journey with words progresses. So, yes, you should find one (or more) right now; however, you should keep your eyes open for communities that may assist you in specific ways or that you can serve. For example, as an aspiring author, I want to soak up all the advice I can get from writers who have published books. I will seek out those communities where I can exist mostly as a sponge, learning from those who have gone before. Once I am published, I won’t abandon those communities, but I may have something to offer. Also, I may seek out communities of aspiring authors at that point so I can share what I’ve learned. Right now I have experience I can share with writers who want to get published in magazines, newspapers or websites because I’ve been doing that for 18 years now.
We all have things to share and things to learn because we’re all in various stages of life and experience with words. So, we all hold different but equally important roles in the communities in which we choose to invest our time and energy.
5. Why do you need a writing community?
I have mostly answered this as we’ve moved along this journey, but I will add that a wise person once told the world that no man should be an island unto himself. Like I showed last week, you cannot hole yourself away somewhere and expect to write about the relationships and emotions and experiences of life with any sense of believability. A community kick starts your creative process and keeps you going. It can keep you accountable. If you set goals in a public way, you’re much more likely to stick to them!
6. How do you find writing communities?
Honestly, you find a writing community by putting yourself out there. Shed the overcoat of fear long enough to seek the warmth of fire fueled by the passions of other Word lovers. When you take that step and really allow others in, you will find you no longer need that coat.
7. So what? What’s this got to do with me?
If you’ve followed me for a bit, you may remember when I wrote about this seventh question my journalism professor taught me to ask. Well, let’s look at a few ways you may be asking this question.
“Joy, I’m not a writer; so what could this possibly have to do with me?”
Please scroll back up and read that part about how a community benefits a reader and how readers benefit writers. If you’re reading this post, you’re a reader. Also, if you’re reading this post on this blog, you’re part of my writing community! (Stay tuned for next week when I talk about you!) As part of my community, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that you encourage me, you drive me and you are why I do this. Sure, a writer has to write, even if there’s no reader. However, at the end of the day, when the night comes and we’re exhausted and we’re questioning everything—like why we would pursue such a time-consuming passion that brings so little money—the reader makes us pick up that pen again. So, stop thinking so little of yourself and your influence!
“So what? What could I possibly have to offer? I’m brand new to this writing thing, so I don’t want to be a mooch or show everyone how dumb I am.”
First of all, you’re not dumb. Second, we’ve all been there. Third, I guarantee you will advance much quicker in your understanding of writing and in your growth as a writer if you immerse yourself in a good writing community. Before you know it, you’ll be sharing lessons with others. And, right away, your excitement and desire to learn serves as an encouragement to others!
“So what? I know it all! I’ve published 10,000 books and taught Stephen King all he knows.”
First, who are you, exactly? And, second—hogwash! You don’t know everything. You will never reach some level of experience where you can’t learn something new. And, finally, please come off your high horse long enough to share some advice from your massive success with all of us mere mortals!
Join me next week as I share with you a little about the inspirational people who make up my writing community.
I want to hear from you! How would you answer some of these questions? Do you have a writing community? Did you learn something in this that helped you find your writing community—or recognize the one you didn’t know you had?