We, as a people, are social creatures. That’s how we’re built. Sure, there are personality differences that change the level of interaction needed or desired, but we still need others. Especially when your chosen craft is as solitary as writing is. It’s a lonely sport. We sit alone at home (or in a coffee shop), we outline (maybe), we write, we revise, and we edit. All of that, for the most part, is a solitary activity.
It’s also a difficult path to pursue as a hobby or career. There isn’t a guarantee of money or fame, but those are the goals a lot of us work toward. In the wake of the loneliness, these also bring heartache, discouragement, and pain. Between the length of time it takes to finish a project (start to finish, it took me 16 months to finish Deception) and the rejection letters from agents and the poor sales numbers on self-publishing sites, the heart can only take so much.
This is why community is so important. While the craft itself is fairly solitary, there are opportunities to interact with other writers. It’s important to find others to help you grow, encourage you, and to help you persevere during the inevitable lows. And there are so many existing places to connect! They can be in person or online, and most of them are free!
Some examples include writing groups (also called critique groups or critique circles), online communities, and social media. They can provide you with encouragement, answers your questions, help you make other connections, critique your work, and suggest ways for you to grow. And the best part: they’re writers just like you! They know the struggle of sifting through rejection letters. It’s not an empty “I’m sorry” but a heartfelt “I’ve been there and you’ll make it through.” (Not that those who aren’t writers can’t offer support and encouragement. It’s just different.) They have the same goals as you, so they understand when you text “can’t talk – in a writing streak”.
There are several benefits to these communities. I’m going to use my current communities as examples. I’m in a writing group, which meets weekly to critique each other’s works; a member of Litopia, an online community that helps you grow with other writers; and on Twitter, where I’ve met lots of fabulous other writers. Plus, I’m married to another author, which is super wonderful.
- Support: In each of these areas, we share our experiences with each other, good and bad. We cheer when there’s a big writing streak or a book release and we console when there’s yet another rejection letter.
- Questions: Being in these different groups gives me access to several people and resources I wouldn’t otherwise have. I can also ask different questions, like how to handle querying to international agents or, within my manuscript, whether to write Russian speech in the Cyrillic alphabet or the phonetic words.
- Connections: Litopia is a great place for this because people come from all over the world in all walks of writing. The creator of Litopia is Peter Cox, a prominent literary agent in the UK, and he’s active and answers questions online! On Twitter, I’m connected with a variety of literary agents, all who are active and responsive, and other authors.
- Critiques: The writers group is perfect for this as that’s its main function. Read each other’s work and offer critiques and suggestions. This not only helps you see where people struggle in your work, but the act of critiquing gives you exposure and knowledge to other things that work and that don’t.
- Growth: This encompasses all the other areas communities help with. Through encouragement, critiques, and connections, you will grow as a writer. And you’ll be able to more successfully live your life as a writer and offer assistance to other new writers as well.
A few warnings:
- Don’t get so caught up in the community that you forget to write. You join these organizations or groups to support your writing and others’ writings. Don’t leave it behind.
- If it becomes unsafe, leave. If the groups becomes toxic or stop being a safe place for you to grow, then leave. Your writing needs to take priority, so if you’re not getting out of it what you need, then take care of yourself first.
Your writing career is so important, and it’s vital that you interact with others to grow. From friends, writing groups, communities, and social media, the people and opportunities are out there. Go join them!