Welcome Joe Kovacs to the blog! He’s talking today about the writers’ community and three ways to engage and be a part of it. I’ll be visiting his blog next week to talk about guest posting. Enjoy and check out his blog (links at the end.)
Write Alone? Heck, No: How to Build a Strong Community of Writers
Writing is often perceived as a lonely activity. Writers can be imagined in ridiculous ways–hunched over tiny, poorly-lit rickety desks, for example; nerve-wracked, hands clawing through hair during maniacal attempts to generate magic at the tip of a pen point; or by removing one’s fingers from that now tangled mess of hair and, like some classically trained pianist, slamming their endlessly moving fingers upon a keyboard in pursuit of the same end.
It is true, the essence of writing is its solitude. Struggling to find within one’s imagination words that have meaning is not exactly a team sport.
So it is that much more important then that, during “off” hours, the writer try to achieve some balance in life by connecting with other writers who pursue similar lifestyles. Fortunately, doing so is not difficult. In fact, despite stereotypes to the contrary, most writers tend to share the same need for socialization as other “normal” people and will actively seek the company of like-minded individuals.
If you are a writer wondering how and where to build meaningful exchanges with others like yourself, consider the following three suggestions:
1. Participate in an already established writer’s community.
Writers’ centers, conferences, and retreats have been a reliable staple for writers over the years. As a resident of Montgomery County, Maryland, I have taken several novel writer courses at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. When I lived in Denver, Colorado, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop fulfilled that need. To this day, I remain regularly connected with my Denver-based group via email and a Facebook group despite the fact that I have lived on the East Coast now for three and a half years.
Well-known conferences such as Bread Loaf in Vermont or the Writer’s Digest events across the country provide other great opportunities. Finally, countless celebrations of the literary arts, including November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event and the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which aspires to find the worst first line of a novel, draws writers into daunting and hilarious communities with some astonishing and memorable entries.
2. Build genuine friendships with other writers.
Writing can be about a lot more than just sharing written words on a page, though the feedback and review process is the crucial element that draws writers together.
Take the time to get to know and become friendly with other writers in your community.
After finishing a novel writer’s workshop with the Lighthouse Writers in Denver, I joined with several other participants to go independent. Seven of us began meeting every other week at locations around the city to evaluate each other’s work, and have a beer and something to eat. That was back in 2009. In 2010, I moved to Washington, DC; now it’s 2014, and my friendship with them, as I mentioned, continues online. One other member of our group has since moved to Florida, but she continues to participate, as well.
In many important ways, the writers you get to know can become real friends with lives of their own that you end up learning a lot about. Years ago, as a younger writer wandering through bookstores in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle on Friday and Saturday nights, I would look at and envy the groups of friends who were dressed to the nines and on their way to some all-night party. It all looked so exciting, but all they were doing was sharing a common interest.
That’s the same thing you’re doing when you get to know other writers. So don’t miss the opportunity. Go all in. Smile, socialize, and get to know who has the same interests you do.
3. Be respectful and celebrate success–even if it’s not yours!
Making friends isn’t easy. Keeping them can be even more difficult if, as a writer, you concentrate too much on promoting yourself and your desired accomplishments.
I follow close to 800 Twitter users and sometimes it’s hard to tell the tweets apart since many of them share qualities of self-promotion. There’s nothing wrong with self-promotion; it’s a critical part of building your business and finding buyers for your books. But few of those Twitter followers (with an occasional notable exception) have taken time to engage with me through retweets, favorites, or replies. We remain strangers, lessening the likelihood that I will support them.
Engagement, either in person or online, is essential to keep friends. Support the work of others; genuinely believe in and support their aspirations. Invest the time to do so, and your fellow writers will notice and appreciate it.
If you’re in a writer’s group, read the submissions and develop thoughtful feedback before you meet to discuss the pages. Don’t rush through a reading and review process moments before the group meeting. One writer habitually did this in a group I participated in, and he wasn’t around for long.
If you participate in social networks, be generous, though selective, in your favorites and likes. Share articles and blog posts and leave thoughtful comments.
These respectful gestures will make other writers appreciate your involvement and make them more likely to accept you into the community (as well, potentially, of your writing).
In the end, engagement is more important than self-promotion. So treat others well, and watch as they treat you well, in return.
Finally…this must be said.
Every writer knows the travails of getting published. No one can say when success will come so, while you’re waiting for your particular train to come in the station, actively support the success of your writer colleagues. You’re running the same challenging race. In the end, it is not about your success or the success of another writer, but the success of any solid piece of writing to find a receptive, excited audience of readers. Celebrate that in any form it takes–through your writing or that of another worthy writer.
Do you agree with these three reasons about how and why it is important to build meaningful exchanges with other writers? What experience have you had building such friendships?
About Joe Kovacs
Joe Kovacs is a writer of literary and horror fiction. His blog, The Write Place, highlights the intersection between writing and life. He is also seeking agency representation for his novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot.