Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing.
This excerpt is from “Chapter Ten: Community, Industry, and Audience,” which explains the benefits and importance of networking with the writing community as well as studying the industry and developing a reading audience. The chapter includes tips, too!
“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” — E.B. White
Writers are notorious for spending hours in solitude, bent over our keyboards, laboring over prose and poetry. And when we’re not absorbed in our own writing, we’ve got our noses wedged deeply into someone else’s, because if there’s one thing we love as much as writing, it’s reading.
We’re known as eccentrics, loners, and introverts. Of course, we’re not all eccentrics, loners, or introverts. Lots of writers are conventional, social, and extroverted. But we all have to spend lots of time alone doing our work.
Yet none of us does it alone. Whether we realize it or not, writers are part of a much larger community that includes fellow writers, readers, and the entire publishing industry.
Fostering relationships with readers, other writers, and a broader range of people who make up the writing community has immense benefits. From learning the craft and developing skills to keeping creativity alive and staying motivated, this community can be essential in a job where the vast majority of your work is self-directed and done in isolation.
The writing community is immense, and there is a place in it for you.
The Writing Community
At the heart of every community lies a common, shared experience, and it’s no different for writers. Other writers understand our unique struggles. Whether we’re tangled up in a messy plot, trying to form a poem into a publishable work of art, or working through a stressful revision on an article or essay, the challenges we encounter as writers are particular to our craft.
When we surround ourselves with other writers, we enjoy camaraderie and make new friends—people who sympathize with our writing struggles and lend a bit of writerly advice.
Your fellow writers will relate to small accomplishments and celebrate them with you. When I finished the first draft of my first book, the non-writers in my life wanted to know if I’d already sent it out to get published. My writer friends said, “Good for you! When are you going to start revising?” The stark difference in their responses punctuated why the writing community is so important to me as a writer. The writers understood how meaningful it was to finish a book and knew that a draft is the first step of many. Their understanding filled my heart with appreciation.
Throughout our lives, we’ll find ourselves involved in various communities. I’ve found that writers tend to be warm, supportive, and generous people. Whether I’m sitting in a live workshop, interacting with writers online, listening to interviews, or reading books full of writing tips, I always sense kindness and compassion from other writers.
Plus, writers come in all shapes and sizes. There are fiction writers, poets, novelists, and a slew of nonfiction writers. Some consider their writing an art. Others view it as a livelihood. Some writers are introverts—solitary, shy, and withdrawn. Others are socially active and extroverted.
Getting involved in the writing community is fun and it can be exciting, especially when you meet other writers that you really connect with. Like all passionate people, writers generally love to talk about their passion and are glad to engage in conversations about grammar or swap writing tips.
As with any career and perhaps especially with creative or artistic careers, involvement with others does wonders for strengthening one’s connection to the craft. The writing community will help you master the craft, keep you focused and motivated, and provide a safe place for sharing ideas.
You can harness the power of this community for whatever you need. For example, I used to have a hard time staying focused on a writing project. I’d start it and then become distracted by some other project or even a completely different interest. My blog, Writing Forward, forced me to commit to writing on a regular basis because it became a space where I interacted with other writers and discussed the craft in meaningful ways. Those interactions, along with my sense of duty to my readers, kept me going and I was finally able to write regularly.
The writing community strengthened and intensified my passion for writing, and it will do the same for you.
Connecting with Other Writers
With the Internet, connecting with the writing community is a snap. It may take a while to find exactly the type of community you’re looking for, but rest assured, they’re out there. You can find writers blogging, podcasting, chatting on social media, hanging out in forums, and participating in community projects like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
Looking for an offline writing community? Check with your local community center and bookstores in your area to see if there are any local writing groups you can join. One of the best places to meet and mix with writers is in a workshop or class, so see if any creative-writing classes are offered at a nearby community college.
You can form or join small writing groups, intimate circles that meet regularly to discuss writing and share ideas and projects, or you can find a writing partner, someone you can bounce ideas off, swap work for critique, or even write projects with, in a partnership.
I encourage all writers to engage with the writing community on some level, but in a way that is comfortable for you. Some people do best in a formal setting, so classes and workshops are ideal. Others thrive on deadlines and competition: NaNoWriMo is perfect for this. If you’d like to lead a smaller online community, start a blog. If you’d like to make watercooler conversation with other writers, get on social media, find other writers, and chat them up. You might find lots of casual acquaintances, or you may form a few close friendships. You might choose to engage with a community online or in the real world. It doesn’t matter. The point is that you engage on some level.
Whether you join a writing community or start your own, you will reap incredible benefits and pleasures from mingling with other writers, and by simply being a writer, you are already part of the larger writing community, so why not get a little more involved?