Writing can be a lonely endeavor when we let it become one. It’s easy to feel isolated, to feel like your words don’t matter and no one’s reading them. And when that happens, all too often the inspiration to write dries up. That’s a terrible thing. I believe there are amazing stories inside of each of us waiting to be told–stories that speak truths of who we are and how we see the world. Stories that matter.
It’s a shame to silence them.
I’ve been serious about my writing for nearly a decade now. I enjoyed writing and telling stories all through growing up but I let my practicing of my craft go by the wayside. And then, once I decided to really apply myself to growing as a writer, I shunned writing groups by and large, too scared to share my work. I got by with a few beta readers, one of whom became one of my story-shining CPs.
And I did get by. I learned a lot, and I worked hard, but not nearly to the point I have lately.
In the last year and a half or so, I’ve become incredibly productive in part because I’ve been phenomenally inspired by the amazing writers who make up my support system.
For me, inspiration is tied to the books I’ve been reading and to my emotional state. When I’m stressed, inspiration often dries up, while if I’m comfortable and confident, I can sling ideas around free for the taking. That means self-care is really important for me. Yes, I still have to do the work, but part of that work is giving myself the best chance to be inspired.
And that’s where my community comes in. My cheerleaders, my pillow-fort, my squad. They pick me up when I’m down and lost, and they cheer with me when I win or when I’m confident.
So how do you get one of these amazing circles of friends yourself?
That’s the meat of what I want to talk about today, because there’s absolutely no need to be jealous, and too many times I hear people bad mouth these teams, or feel jealous or sad. But here’s the thing: my bunch may not fit your needs, and your bunch may not fit another person’s needs. That doesn’t mean there’s anything cliquey going on (although that can happen, of course). It just means you have time to find your writing home.
I have a few circles. Some are for me to encourage others and receive encouragement by seeing others getting words down. Some I use to motivate me by expecting me to have something to submit for critique, and I grow as I give critique, too. (When in critique groups, always plan to give more to the group than you get.) Some are where I shout out about awesome opportunities in the writing world, or brainstorm or world build or character build. And then a very select few I go to when I’m vulnerable. When I need a lift, when I need a hug. These are the groups I know will never stab me in the back.
How many do you need? It’s totally dependent on you! But at least you need the last kind- that circle of people who will support you and never turn on you. And that’s hard to find. And it’s scary. But it’s gold once you have your writing family.
To form your own writing fam, it’s terrifyingly simple, but difficult. You have to put yourself out there. You have to try groups out and see where you fit. And sadly, that means you’ll find groups that don’t fit you. They aren’t active enough, or they’re too positive, or not positive enough, or not experienced enough yet, or too advanced and you feel left out, or maybe your personalities just don’t mesh. All of these situations can happen absolutely benignly, and I’ve seen them happen several times. Feeling bitter about it won’t help–chalk it up to a simple “not quite right” and move on. (Or, stay for other reasons, but keep looking for that close inner heart-circle.) Your people are out there!
I love events and competitions like Nanowrimo, RevPit, and Writer In Motion. They are amazing opportunities to find community. You get out what you put in, though, too. So if you come in ready to fight, or pick nits, or only want adoration, they won’t do a ton for you. (Side note: Good critiques can be tough, but a tough critique does not equal a good critique). If you come in looking to give more than you get, lift others up too, and learn all that you can soak up, you have a much better chance of finding your troupe. You’re also far more likely to get a ton out of it, even if you don’t win the competition, and for far longer than the event goes for.
I have four CPs right now (I know, right? I’m so lucky! They’re each amazing wonderful people and phenomenal writers). One I found through Nanowrimo, one though RevPit, one through Twitter in general but I interacted with her mainly from RevPit and Writer In Motion, and another through my writing groups on Discord.
My CPs and I poke at each other to do writing competitions, to stretch our skills with writing exercises, and trade insights and reading lists. This is in addition to the brilliant stories and synopses I get to read from them and the amazing insight they give me on my work, and in addition to the brainstorming and plot-hole-filling and character-motivation-shining sessions we have. It’s amazing to have people to bounce ideas off of and to encourage each other on. Again, you have to come with the mindset of learning and giving though.
Not all of my heart-circle is CPs though, either. Some people I know will never love my work because it’s just not right for them but they still are always there for support and encouragement when I need them, as I try to be for them. They’re still part of my heart-circle. You can find CPs and your writing team in general anywhere. And they’re an amazing resource to be able to lean on.
These days, I’m part of several writing groups that I’m active on nearly every day, including one that I run critique groups on nearly weekly (which is amazing), and nearly daily I hang out with my Writer In Motion friends, even though our Writer In Motion was a year ago. I also have gotten involved with Write Hive in my quest to give back to other writers, just like older more experienced writers helped me when I was beginning my journey.
So in short, to inspire you, of course, reading is amazing, but I’m sure you’ve already seen that advice. Don’t forget to build your community, whether you’re a writer or a reader, to inspire you to keep reaching greater heights!
Looking for opportunities to build your own writing community? Remember to go into these with the intent to give, not just get.
Writer In Motion — starting back up in a week (August 2020)
Quillhaven Discord Writing Group