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How to Build a Writing Community

It's astounding that even though I've put out eighteen blogs so far, the second one I ever posted is still my most viewed. I don't know if that is because of the timing it was posted, or because of the interest level in a new writing blog, but I'm going to assume it was due to the content. The most successful blog I've written is about how thankful I am for my literary community, so in following the trends of Hollywood, I'm going to rehash an old idea and hope it sells as well as the first one.

Seven easy steps to finding or building a writing community:

(Why seven you ask... not sure, it just sounded good.)

1) Find a friend who also likes to write and is way more outgoing than you. Then glom onto them and hope they already have a writing group you can join.

  • No, but really, if it wasn't for my friend Maddy I would still be utterly lost in the world of writing. We went to the same grad program and only overlapped one semester, but I instantly thought she was amazing and brilliant and forced her to be my friend. Over the years I've slowly pulled her into every writing project I have until one day she invited me to join her writing group discord. The point of this is to hold on to the people who you might have a real, literary connection with and don't give up on that bond.

2) Get a part-time job at a bookstore and spend all day talking to people about books they like to read, then make your coworkers start a book club.

  • On and off since 2011 I have worked in some kind of bookstore. The one I currently work in is an indie store with the best customers and coworkers. I currently have two coworkers reading my novel manuscripts and giving me feedback. I met an author who came in for a signing and she gave me her email address to read over my cover letter. No joke, being around people who love books and sharing your own love of reading and writing will get you like-minded people to grow with.

3) Post your shit online in multiple different places and hope that someone reads it and relates to it, then reaches out and forms a friendship with you.

  • Mkay, so I'm still kind of waiting for this one to happen. I've been posting this blog for a while and sharing some of my writing online, and while I have lovely people like you who read it, I have not had someone reach out to me about it. The closest I've come is some very sweet comments on LinkedIn. Yes, you read that right, LinkedIn is where I have gotten the most interaction on my writing stuff. Isn't that wild??

4) Pay wayyy too much money for a degree in writing, specifically a graduate program, and then hold onto the people you meet there with an iron grip and feel heartbroken when they slip away.

  • I know I already talked about Maddy from my grad program, but like I said, we only overlapped one semester. I had four semesters before I ever even met her. In those four semesters I had a very solid group of friends, incredibly helpful mentors, and to be honest, grad school was the first time in my life I felt like a real writer. Now, almost five years after graduating with my master's, I essentially talk to none of those people. It used to make me really sad, it still does from time to time. However, I realized something not too long ago. I posted something about my life and several of the people from school and old mentors commented on it. It isn't that those relationships are lost, they're just laying dormant. When the time comes and I need some advice, or to share my work, or celebrate an eventual publication, those people will be there for me, just like I'll be there for them. Not all friendships are active all the time.

5) You have to actually like, talk to people, go to events, and try things if you want to be a part of a community.

  • I spent so many years being afraid to join any groups or share my writing outside of class. I missed out on opportunities in high school and in my undergrad to join groups of like-minded writers. There were book clubs and writing clubs, and even literary journals looking for readers. I was too afraid I wouldn't fit in, or wouldn't be good enough, and so I limited the scope of my world. Going to grad school, and sharing my work in my current writing group showed me how much I was missing out on by not putting myself out there and actively looking for chances to join.

6) A writing group isn't actually about writing... it's about talking shit when your best stories get rejected and working through the trauma of your childhood so you can slap that on a page and call it fiction.

  • When my writing group gets together once a week, we basically do a quick check-in and then turn off our cameras on Zoom and write together but separately for two hours. The rest of the time, we're sending each other memes, YouTube links, pet pictures, and yes, the occasional story to be workshopped. The group is based on a mutual understanding that even though none of us might ever be successful with it, we cannot help but put words on the page– that being said, what's built off that base is a bunch of silliness.

7) I'm really sorry to say this one, but just like with getting your work published, building and finding a community of people you care to share your love of writing with is mostly based on luck.

  • I know. It's not fair. I don't know how I got as lucky as I did. Yes, I did the six steps before this, but I'm also just incredibly lucky I met the people I did when I did. There have been groups before this that fell apart after one meeting. There have been people I shared work with who ghosted me a week later. I've had writing partners and teachers who dismiss my work and move on to the next person like I didn't just share a little piece of my soul with them. Making friends is so fucking hard, but making writing friends... nearly impossible. I can only say that I got lucky with my current group because I kept trying and kept myself open to the possibility of finding people who would lift me and my writing up, and that I could return the favor.

So... was the sequel better than the original? Probably not, but does anyone really care about that anyway? If there's one thing being chronically online has taught me, it's that if an audience likes something you doing, you should keep doing it to death until they eventually get sick of you and then blame you for being repetitive.

My writing group is just the best!

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