Quick-Tip Tuesday: Finding A Writing Community

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David B. Coe/D.B. JacksonI’m finally home after ConCarolinas and the Roaring Writers Retreat, where I taught and led critique sessions for a fun, productive, wonderful week. (Thanks for inviting me, folks — it was fantastic!) My third night home — last night — I attended a meeting of the writer’s group of which I’m a part here in my town. And, of course, I’m posting this to MW, which has been the foundation of my writing family for eight and a half years.

So, I thought today I should post about community and its importance to writers of all levels.

Writing can be a lonely profession. We often work on our own, toiling alone for hours at a time, sending our work into what can feel like a marketplace vacuum, and waiting for feedback that can be hurtful, even brutal. It’s hard, and our solitude makes it harder. Yes, we have loved ones on whom we can lean for support, but there’s no substitute for talking these things out with people who understand the process and the pain, the toil and the isolation. Having a professional community can mitigate these challenges, by providing camaraderie, solace, and support.

Roaring Writers retreat 2016I haven’t always had access to so much writerly interaction, and trust me when I tell you that I know how fortunate I am. Meeting Faith and Misty, and creating Magical Words back in January 2008, was a turning point in my professional life, one that led me to friendships and opportunities I never imagined I would have. My writing group here at home is one I started a bit over a year ago with several friends. Before then, I’d never had a writing group and had been a bit envious of those who did. The Roaring Writers teaching gig was something that came my way through a web of connections.

But none of this means you have to wait years and years before you can develop a writing community of your own. The folks who organized the retreat met through Magical Words and drew upon friendships they first established online. Their group is already as large as they would want it to be, but there’s nothing stopping you from forming a group of your own that draws from similar sources. Folks I know up in Calgary, Alberta, hold writing retreats and workshops with friends they’ve met through local events and conventions. Perhaps you can do something similar.

My home writing group consists (mostly) of people I’ve known for years. We’ve often talked casually about our writing, but only recently did we decide to work together in this way. We’re an eclectic collection — a Christian memoirist; a couple of Southern literary fiction writers, one who writes mostly short fiction, and one who is working on a novel; a guy who specializes in non-fiction nature writing; an essayist; a scholarly writer; and me. It’s not the group I might have envisioned for myself, but it works, and I’ve come to see our eclecticism as an advantage. If my fantasy stories can move this audience, I know I’m doing something right.

As I mentioned, my travels began with ConCarolinas. Conventions can be a terrific venue for forming connections with other writers of a similar level in terms of ability and experience. With social media, email, and other online resources, physical proximity is no longer a requirement for a writing community. It may be that you’re one con away from making the same sort of connections I made with Faith and Misty all those years ago.

My point is this: Developing a writing community can make a huge difference in every element of your writing life. I get more from my writing group than feedback on my latest chapters. They offer support when I’m doubting myself, advice when I’m struggling with decisions both creative and market-oriented, and a sounding board for any number of issues. And sometimes it’s just fun to talk and laugh and sip a bit of wine with people who share my passion for the written word.

My friendships with Faith and Misty resulted in more than just the founding of Magical Words. Because of them, I attended ConCarolinas, where I met A.J. Hartley and Stuart Jaffe, Gail Martin and John Hartness, Emily Leverett and Melissa Gilbert, and so many others. Faith introduced me to Catie Murphy; I introduced her to Edmund Schubert. As I said before, the network we’ve built has shaped my career and brought into my life people who are now among my closest friends and most trusted peers.

And I see much the same dynamic in the Roaring Writers group, as well as the writing community in Calgary. If you already have a writing community, great. I hope it brings you comfort and joy, as well as feedback and opportunity. I hope as well that you appreciate what you have. If you don’t have one yet, look for ways in which you might encounter other writers with whom you can work. Attend a convention or a writing workshop. Seek out others in your community who share your passion and aspirations. In short, look beyond the walls of your writing space. You might find friends and colleagues who will help shape the career you’re building.

Keep writing!

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3 comments to Quick-Tip Tuesday: Finding A Writing Community

  • […] Today’s Quick-Tip Tuesday post at Magical Words is about writing communities — conventions, retreats, crit groups — and the benefits they bring to writers of all levels. I’m recently back from ConCarolinas and the Roaring Writers 2016 Retreat, where I led critiques and taught, and I have a new writing group in my town, so this topic has been on my mind lately. I hope you enjoy the post, which you can find here. […]

  • Great post, David. If not for all of you, I’d have given up long ago. Now I’m *thisclose* to seeing my dreams (editing full time, writing on the side) come true. The writing community is such a wonderful group of people who support each other, care about each other, and push each other to do the better than they thought they ever could.

    I am so thankful every single day to be part of that community.

  • Dangit, I wish someone had told me to pull down my shirt in that photo. 🙄

    Thank you for such a great week, David. This was wonderful on so many levels, and great to have you as our teacher/author-in-residence. I keep coming back to how far we’ve come since we started this in 2014. With each year, I feel like we’ve leveled up. And each year the word “retreat” has become more of a misnomer; this was an intensive. Work, but the good kind of work, with the right amount of bacon (thank you, Chef!). All of us striving to improve ourselves, eager for the critiques and feedback so that we could work even harder to make our writing shine. (Because the most important rule here is, “Check your ego at the door.”) I can’t recommend this sort of retreat highly enough. 😀