Writing Life

Ask Not What the Writing Community Can Do for You

“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~John Donne (1572-1631)

What was true in the 1600s is still true today. If you’re a writer, do your best to get out of the vacuum. They say writing is a solitary act, but ‘they’ didn’t break it down enough. The ‘creation’ stage of writing definitely is a solitary act, unless of course you are co-writing. See—as with everything, there are no absolutes in writing. Once we move away from the act of creation, writing becomes a partnership. With beta readers, with editors, with publishers, with agents, with readers. You are best to start out on your writing path thinking of writing as a community effort. And, yes, I suggest you even include the reader within that vast community. Without a reader, there would be no need to write.

I try to maintain my involvement in both the writing and the reading community. Both online and offline. I have always found that getting involved in my local writing community—by volunteering, participating in smaller writing circles, going to open mic nights, helping other writers by editing or beta-ing their work, etc—has been just as beneficial to me as it is to them. More so. I always feel like I’m growing as a writer if I’m helping another writer.

Writing is a field in which its participants can share in celebrating each others’ accomplishments. It doesn’t have to be a competition. Making something a competition is essentially cutting yourself off from the rest of your peers. Because we know some parts of writing are lonely, we should make that extra effort to get out of our boxes—outside of self—and raise our voices in celebration when our friends and colleagues succeed. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

For me, being a part of a writing community is such a supportive leg-up I feel I’m constantly indebted to the community. I was offered so much advice along the way, mentored freely with no expectation of reciprocal action. Because of this, I am always eager to help someone new. It’s a scary thing to approach a community and ask for permission to enter. Especially if you’re under the misguided assumption the members of that community are islands onto themselves.

Remember this: NO WRITER IS ANISLAND. Nor do writers want to be islands. The next time you’re taking part in a workshop or a writers’ meeting, conference, open mic night, etc…remember you are part of a community that encourages its members to succeed. Network. Your opportunity to talk about writing is right in front of you when you’re in such company. Who else will understand you more than your fellow writers? Remember the time you spend at home, in front of your monitor…all alone with your thoughts and your muse. When you’re in the company of other writers, it’s time to let your hair down. Dig in and do what you can for that community. A few kind words to a shy stranger dipping their toes in the water for the first time might be all that is needed to form a mutually beneficial bond with a fellow writer.

Remember the first time you decided to participate in your local writing community? Were you scared? Nervous? Terrified? I bet someone stepped up and welcomed you in. Now it’s your turn to do the same…

4 thoughts on “Ask Not What the Writing Community Can Do for You”

  1. I love sharing my work but at the same time, I want to forge my own path. To me it isn’t a competition. I don’t much subscribe to rules. To me writing is organic, it’s intuitive and I’d rather not be bumping up against the boundaries of rules when I create. Each writing process is distinctly different and individual.

    That said, I love my writing community. I love talking and hearing about each writer’s journey of discovery. Being part of the community is as important as the first blank page of 300 blank pages.

  2. Here, here, Kevin. I too belong to the wonderful, supportive community you belong to and as many visitors have commented, the warmth and encouragement they see demonstrated between writers in our community is (unfortunately) not always the norm, but it should be. Being the first group I joined (how lucky was I) I thought all writers treated each other so kindly. I have a clear memory of meeting Sue Reynolds and Ruth Walker at the Surfacing Magazine launch party. I was lucky enough to have my first story published with Surfacing and both ladies were so wonderful and genuinely happy for me (a stranger to them at the time) that I continue to carry that feeling with me. In turn, I have tried to give other emerging writers the same respect. You are absolutely correct that when you give, you receive back ten fold.

  3. Great article, much enjoyed. I have found involvement in the writing community to be extremely beneficial and I’m ready to step up to the plate and welcome others!

  4. Great post, Kevin, and oh, so true. I clearly remember Sherry Hinman welcoming me to WCDR with a friendly smile. What a difference it made to me. And that was just the start. How lucky we are to have all these friends with benefits–writers.

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