When I started out on this writing journey, I was a hitchhiker on the road to realizing a dream. I was afraid, but my son—who was about to graduate from high school—asked me, “When are you going to do something with your life?” He accused me of never doing what I always talked about—writing. I didn’t want to admit he was right, so I decided to prove him wrong.
I didn’t know where or how to begin, so I replaced the bed in our spare room with my writing desk, a wooden chair, a bulletin board and a growing stack of literary journals. I sat in this room for about an hour each day with no distractions to write or scour literary magazines for exciting writing and read author bios for the pieces I loved. If I came across calls for submissions, I pinned a note to my bulletin board. A few months in, I started sending out my work and braced myself for rejection. I also started attending writing events and other writerly opportunities the universe put in my path. To my surprise, I got a first acceptance almost six months after my son had challenged me. Then a few more trickled in. I became a reader for a lit mag, took some writing courses and started to meet other writers. As my community expanded, I was no longer the lonely traveller.
Community creates opportunities to connect with people. Connection allows us to feel safe, supported and secure–helps push us to reach out of our comfort zones to achieve goals that would otherwise seem beyond our realm. All of us—and perhaps especially life writers who allow themselves to be vulnerable on the page—need safe places where we can reach out for support, celebrate “wins” and share opportunities.
Even online, it takes a community to help raise a writer. In my curated community, many writers have become trusted critique partners and helped me force my writing to a higher level. My community is helping me shape my world, cheering me on. Inspiring me.
A strong community is a place that creates opportunities and offers encouragement. I’ve compiled a list to help start or continue building your writing community.
If you’re just beginning your writing journey, do some research by reading the journals you’re interested in publishing work, search for online webinars and writing courses. Reach out into your physical world as well—there could be programs or groups at your local library and continuing education centres. Find workshops, courses and/or conferences related to your writing niche ((i.e. Grub Street, Hugo House, The Writer’s Center and The Loft are a few reputable places to start.) A quick Google search will bring up pages of options from which to choose. Writers also rely on word of mouth, social media, mailing lists and newsletters. As with most things, workshops, courses and conferences aren’t one-size-fits-all, so do a bit of research.
No matter where you are on your path, jump at any opportunity to exchange work, participate in readings, and support authors by attending their (virtual) readings. On social media, you could share work you admire, craft articles that speak to you, and information on contests or calls for submissions. When you have time, read community members’ posts and personal publications they link. Make sure you tag the author and the magazine. Don’t forget to include hashtags, such as #CNFcommunity, #writerslife, #amreading etc. And let’s not forget fan (e)mail and online comments—writers don’t know their work is being read and appreciated unless you tell them!
Maybe, like me, you’re comfortably along the writerly path. If so, you could mentor another writer—reach back and help pull another writer further along their path—or start a writing group. We writers often place ourselves apart from the rest. A sense of community – be it in the form of a Zoom group, weekly workshop, Twitter feed, or Sunday meets at a coffee shop – is important for a writer from any literary background. Coming together virtually or physically to create a literary environment can help us thrive as writers.
What can you do to progress along your path to success?
Almost seven years after my son challenged me to begin my writing journey, I can hardly remember living in my other skin—an unhappy middle-years-teacher-divorcée-and-empty-nester. If I’d never taken that first step, I’d still be that lonely hitchhiker afraid to raise her thumb to hitch a ride to the first junction.