The stereotype of a writer is of a lonely white man toiling away in isolation—probably at a typewriter. Do a Google image search for writer and this is the sort of thing you see:
While it’s true that writing is often a solo pursuit, and that it is widely believed that most writers are introverts, it’s also true that no (wo)man is an island: we homo sapiens are a social bunch, and one of the secrets to our success as a species is our ability to cooperate to achieve shared objectives. If your writing is personal—and by that I mean you don’t want anyone to read it but you—then you probably can work in isolation, but if you actually want other people to read your work, then you need to find a writing community.
I resisted this for a long time, having been bruised in the distant past by unsympathetic feedback and harsh critique. I felt I needed to develop confidence in my own ability to judge my work, and that the noise of other people’s opinions would be a distraction.
Reader: I was WRONG.
At the most basic level, you need a writing community because, despite the stereotype, writing is a collaborative process. While you can self-publish these days, to be successful you are going to need other people to help you, whether that’s an editor, a graphic designer or some anonymous person doing the admin at your print-on-demand service. If you aspire to write screenplays, you have to accept that a whole team of people are going to collaborating with you on getting your story to an audience—and you might not have much say in the final product.
You will need other writers to:
- beta read for you, so you can refine your work
- help you bounce back from the inevitable rejections
- guide you through unfamiliar waters as you progress.
Ultimately, you need a writing community because you are human. You need the social contact: the comfort of shared experience, the light of those who’ve gone before you, o give you a measure of how far you’ve come. It’s hard to build an identity as a writer without knowing how other writers manage the challenges.
I found my writing community by attending writing events, then following up either online or in person. For me, the in-person communities have been the most rewarding. For one thing, I’m too easily distracted online: if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know how involved I can get with the issues of the day. It’s good for me to get out of the house and away from the computer: do what works for you.
I belong to two ‘in-person’ writing groups: Sisters in Crime Qld Chapter, a group dedicated to crime writing, and The Springfield Writers Group, which is in my ‘hood. Both groups are free to join, and have an interesting mix of experience and interests. Over time, the Sisters in Crime group has moved away from critiquing to celebration of the genre: this year we aim to start publishing crime writing podcasts. The Springfield Writers Group is very focused getting members’ work out there, and the more experienced members run workshops for the less-experienced, and the group collaborate on short story anthologies. The first one, Return, is available on Amazon, and we’re hoping to launch the new anthology, Elements, around mid-year. We critique each others’ work, and in doing so, learn more about the craft and business of writing.
If you’ve been toiling away in isolation, take the risk and go to an event: Meetup is a good place to start, or your local writers’ centre. Trust me, I’m a writer.