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July 9, 2019

How Can We Build Our Writing Community?

One pig trailing after two others with text: Finding Where We Fit In

We all come to the writing world through different paths, and our starting points encompass countless different experiences and backgrounds. That means we all discover the existence of the writing community in different ways as well.

Some of us might have Googled a question and discovered a helpful author’s blog. Or we might have encountered authors on social media or came across a flyer for a writing workshop. Or we might have noticed the support around an online fandom.

Soon, we realize that most writers support and encourage each other through tons of resources, blog posts, social media, etc. However, it’s also nice to have a more personal writing community that we can reach out to for help.

That’s where some writers struggle. For a personal writing community, we often want to connect with writers who also become our friends, and for many of us, it can be hard to make friends at all, especially if we’re introverts.

How can we build a personal writing community? Let’s share ideas…

Why Might We Want a Personal Writing Community?

I’ve written before about nine benefits of the writing community:

  1. We Answer Questions and Help Each Other Learn
  2. We Support and Recognize Each Other’s Hard Work
  3. We Help Each Other Grow and Strengthen Our Skills
  4. We Watch Out for Each Other and Our Careers
  5. We Share Our Expertise with Each Other
  6. We Update Each Other on New Techniques
  7. We Share Opportunities and Raise Each Other Up
  8. We Let Each Other Know What’s Normal
  9. We Prevent Each Other from Making Mistakes

Many of those apply to the writing community at large. For example, when I have time (and/or a good answer) I usually answer writing questions for anyone who asks me on social media or in my blog comments. I don’t just limit my responses to my friends.

Similarly, my blog posts share skills, expertise, techniques, things to watch out for, etc. with everyone who stops by. I also use questions from other writers as inspiration for new posts, where I can dig deeper into a more helpful answer.

But some benefits are found more in writing friendships than just with any random writer we might encounter. Not surprisingly, we’re more likely to offer in-depth help or support to our friends because our time is limited.

How Can Writing Friendships Help Us?

Various resources exist that can help us find critique partners or beta readers. But if we need an emergency read before a deadline of a chapter we reworked, our writing friends are more likely to make the time for a last-minute help session than a random writer on a critique site.

How can writing friendships help us — and how can we get them? Click To Tweet(Sometimes the opposite happens though. I connected with Angela Quarles when she responded to my emergency call for a chapter read on Twitter, and now she’s my writing bestie. *grin*)

A group of writing friends is also helpful when we want someone to brainstorm with and bounce around ideas. Or maybe we want some quick feedback on our book cover or book description before we go public with them.

For my close writing-friends group, we just have a forever-ongoing Facebook Messenger conversation for our “home base.” These are the people I’ll try to make time for, no matter how busy I am.

In our group, we…

  • brainstorm
  • ask for writers’ block help
  • give and get suggestions for plots, characters, covers, descriptions, etc.
  • cheer our accomplishments
  • give support when things don’t go well
  • compare notes on sales, marketing, and other “personal” money matters
  • share industry news (and sometimes industry gossip and rumors *grin*)
  • talk about our personal lives, sharing the ups and downs of our families and day jobs

In short, we’re friends who also write. We’ve met in person, room together at conferences, and even occasionally talk on the phone (and if you hate talking on the phone, you know that’s a big deal).

But Making Friends Can Be Difficult…

Most of us struggle to make friends at some point in our life, and we’re not immune to that problem as writers. Many of us are introverts, which can obviously make it difficult to reach out to others and form friendships.

Other complications can get in our way as well…

Self-Doubt:

Beyond introversion or shyness, self-doubt can get in our way. With self-doubt, we might overthink what to do or say, so we decide to say nothing, which results in us being a lurker rather than a participant in the writing community. We could be in a dozen writing groups on Facebook or in person, and if we only lurk, we’re unlikely to find and form friendships.

Instead, we need to try to participate. We need to allow ourselves to ask the questions, contribute when we can, sympathize and empathize with other writers in their struggles, or even just share just animal pictures when another writer is having a bad day. *smile*

Being the Newbie:

We might see great conversations among established friend groups at conferences or online and attempt to join in, only to not be answered with open arms. While writers are usually friendly or helpful, it’s especially hard to join an already-established group unless a current member shepherds us. That difficulty increases even more if we’re trying to join a group with writers further along in their careers.

We’ll usually have more luck forming our own friend group among others in similar situations and/or at similar points in their career. It’s not that the experienced writers are necessarily being snobby or exclusionary, but that writing friends often grow together—that shared experience is why they’re so close—so we might be better off with a group we can grow with as well.

Impostor Syndrome:

Related to self-doubt, we can worry that we don’t belong around other writers. We can be especially susceptible to impostor syndrome when we have bad experiences with writing, such as rejections or being ignored by others in the industry (like when we try to join into established groups). If we feel like we don’t belong, we’ll assume we don’t have anything useful to add in advice-focused writing groups, which means we’d self-limit our participation.

We might instead be able to limit the influence that impostor syndrome has over us if we realize that virtually everyone feels this way at some point in time. Sometimes, we just need to “fake it until we make it.”

Discrimination:

Unfortunately, writers aren’t magically immune to the problems of society, such as racism, sexism, etc. Far too many writers have struggled to find groups they felt welcomed or comfortable because of discrimination in its various forms. Writers have been excluded and condescended to for every type of diverse trait imaginable.

Writers in this situation might try to fight the discrimination (such as running for office in a formal writing group), or they might save their energy for their writing and try to find a different, more welcoming group. However, as empathy is an important writing skill, I hope writers and the writing community challenge themselves to build up their empathy trait and be more open and welcoming for all.

Finding Our Writing Friend Group

So how can we find writing friends? Many of the same places we’d go to look for beta readers or critique partners would also be good places to keep our eye open for potential friends.

If we find a good match for helping us with our writing—they get our voice, etc.—that might be a good sign that we could be friends with them as well. A good match could indicate mutual respect, similar senses of humor, similar enough genres to be able to relate, etc.

But that’s not the only way to make friends. We can also reach out any place writers gather:

  • local writing groups
  • online chapters of national writing groups
  • writing conferences
  • writing meet-ups
  • interactive writing workshops
  • Facebook writing groups
  • Twitter conversations and hashtags
  • writing events, such as NaNoWriMo
  • independent forums like Kboards, Absolute Write Water Cooler, Reddit, etc.

No matter where we try to connect with others, we have to allow ourselves time. Gone are the early school days when we might have proclaimed another kid our best friend instantly just because we wore the same color shirt. *grin*

How can we develop and build close writing friendships? Click To TweetJust like any relationship, friendships take time. Trust doesn’t appear overnight. And as I mentioned when talking about being the newbie, shared experiences and growth help build close friendships.

Also, friendships require at least as much give as take. If we’re always the one asking for help and never turning around and offering help in return, no one will want to be friends with us.

(That’s another reason newbies often don’t fit into an existing group. Most experienced authors have dealt with their share of takers who are looking for a mentoring shortcut with nothing to offer in return. We’re far more likely to succeed when we focus on offering help.)

Our writing “tribe” might take time and work to build. But once we find a good group of people, we’ll always have a sounding board and supportive friends who understand our quirks and the industry. *smile*

Do you have a group of writing friends? How did you find them? How have they been helpful to you? If you don’t have a group of writing friends, do you know why (what interfered with the possibility)? Do you have other questions or suggestions about writing friendships?

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Sieran

Hello Jami! What a lovely topic! You know what, I was just reading an article on friendship yesterday: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/how-to-make-friends-according-to-science?utm_source=pocket-newtab One of the messages that stuck with me in this article, is that even interacting with someone who is not close to you, can have a beneficial effect on your well-being. Wow I can attest to that. One reason why I spend a lot of time on Facebook, is because I get such a positive boost every time, just from chatting to acquaintances, friends, and even strangers in groups, hahaha. (I’ve gotten really into a Pokemon Go Facebook group recently. It’s true what they say, that Pokemon Go is a social game that encourages people to bond and make friends.) Aside from Pokemon Go, I made a lot of friends in Facebook writing groups, and from your blog, of course! Some of these friends are less close, and we only interact within the group. But some other friends are closer, where we are Facebook friends too, and we regularly comment on or react to each other’s posts. I keep sharing funny writing memes from the popular Facebook page, Writing About Writing, and most of the friends who react to or like these memes, are fellow writers. Some of my writer friends are folks I know from real life, e.g. from university. I was an English major too, so quite a few of my writer friends are my classmates and schoolmates, haha. There was a creative writing club as well as some…  — Read More »

Athaia
Athaia

I found Camp NaNoWriMo to be the most efficient way to get into contact with other writers. Camp, because you can form “cabins” – writing groups – and you can then offer the free space in your cabin, letting people know beforehand what kind of writers you seek (for example, all fantasy writers, or women writers over 25… whatever you want to have in common with them).

The cabin acts a filter, because 80% of your cabinmates will either never say a peep after they signed up, or disappear halfway through the month. The rest gets invited to our discord server, where the same thing happens again XD. But the rest… the rest is gold. And yes, you form real friendships – the ‘core four’ of our writer’s discord met back in 2016.

… and we’re still chatting every day 🙂

Stevie Turner

Hi Jami! – I find new writing friends by hosting short story competitions and book promotions on my WordPress blog, and by answering any comments made on my blogs.

Barbara

Hi Jami – Thanks for this post! I have found a good group over at Scribophile, a site where people earn karma points by reviewing and commenting on other people’s work. When you’ve earned enough karma points, you can submit your own work for review. I’ve found it to be a welcoming community to newbies, and you’ll probably get out of it what you put into it. I wouldn’t call those I’ve met ‘friends’ quite yet, but there are seveal people with whom I’ve developed a relationship, a and whose opinions and comments have made my work much stronger.

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