Find your writing community.

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Your dream about writing may have started as a whisper. It comes to many writers as a feeling first, or a wish. And every delicate filament of your dream will be matched by ten shouts of doubt the moment you try to make it real. I'm guessing you've experienced this already.

You know those negative voices come from external places, like parents, co-workers or (gasp!) even teachers. They can be cultural or societal. But the very worst of them can sound like they're coming from inside your own head.

Wherever the killjoy thoughts came from, you need to switch them out if you're going to write! Discredit the naysayers by overriding them with smart, positive voices.

Get yourself some good influences. Find a writing community you trust: even if it's just the community on your bookshelf.

If you dream about writing, connect with other people who believe in the same dream.

Because for an impossible thing (like a book!) to become real, you must believe you will write it. And finding the right crowd to hang out with will help with that.

Community is one of the main reasons writers attend writing classes. I know this from personal experience, and from everything I've heard from the writers I've worked with. Simply being with other writers -- those unique, extraordinary people who not only understand what you're trying to do, but also understand why and how you do it -- gives you a massive boost.  

When you spend time with other people who have the same energy that you do about writing, you lift each other up.

You can get that lift in many ways, but it does mean consciously putting yourself in a place that will be hospitable for your writing.

This can mean re-reading a book you love, listening to the New Yorker Short Story Podcast, sitting at a table with a writer friend, doing timed writing exercises together, or attending a writing conference or festival.

It can also mean taking a writing class.

I started teaching because I'm a connector, at heart. I wanted to create a supportive place for writers to live and dream, and I wanted to introduce writers to other writers so they don't feel like aliens. The Story Course provides a community where writers can flourish and expand. And I invite special guest authors to guest lecture in The Story Intensive, because I want my students to get in with solid, trustworthy influences!

In The Story Intensive Master Classes, students hear George Saunders talk about how long it took him to understand what his own story was about. They hear Margaret Atwood compare her writing practice to the pain of diving into a freezing cold lake. They hear Karen Joy Fowler talk about how she struggles to make the time to write.

Often, writers are the ones who are best on the sidelines: watching and observing everyone else in action. That's our natural habitat. What we observe becomes our material. We know things about people because we are paying attention to the bigger patterns of human life.

Heads up, introvert over there: I know you're not a joiner. But I'm telling you, even if you work alone, it is a good thing to occasionally touch base with others in your species.

You are not alone. You are a writer, just like these writers. You are actually sitting at the same table. You are a part of a larger dialogue.

Connecting with other writers is such an important part of your writing life.

In what ways have you found your writing community? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.  

Sarah Selecky


Photo: Sarah at Lemon Tree Retreat in Tuscany. These people used to be strangers. Then they wrote and talked about writing for two weeks, together. Now, this is a writing community.


The Story Intensive 2015: Update!
Courage comes before confidence.

18 comments

Steph VanderMeulen

For the introverts: my writing group has a few introverts. We've been together now for three years. I'm one of the extroverts. It works extremely well. We love each other, even. Finding your tribe is the best thing ever for you and your writing!!
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Joining a group is super important when writing. It gives us the opportunity of fixing deadlines, correcting and actually finishing the story. I belong to a group of writers and we meet every 6 weeks or so to read out our stories and listen to others. We all have the same prompts whether it be a sentence or a group of words. It is amazing how emotional one gets sharing what we have written and I must admit to having butterflies in my stomach beforehand and feeling shaking afterwards.
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Hi Sarah, I love that you brought this up today. It's been on my mind a lot lately. I agree that finding a writing group is great for writers and the writing. I've been looking for one for more than a year. I live in a rural area and finding other fiction writers has proven difficult. I joined a writers alliance that is in the nearest city only to find that all of their critique groups are at capacity. I'm not sure where to look next. A friend suggested that I find a writing/reading partner to exchange writing with but of course, I'm also an introvert, and so that is challenging, too. Any suggestions for those introverts who live outside of metropolitan areas?
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Amen :) The balance works well. And there is NOTHING on this earth quite like having a community that gets you.
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Margaret N.

Hi, Quinn. You probably need to find an e-mail buddy. That's what I have - a writer friend who reads, critiques and edits my stories, all by email. We also discuss stories and craft by email, or chat on FB, or talking on Skype. I am fortunate to have found my buddy and grateful for her time and generosity. I don't know where you can find her, but once you got her, she's worth her weight in gold. Good luck! You will find your tribe. Margaret
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Lindsay Edmunds

I've met other writers through being a reader. If I read and like an indie book, I might review it, which often leads to finding a kindred spirit.
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Miranda Morris

The intensive was wonderful for writerly support last year, and a boost when I was quite out of touch with myself, but I also feel as if I want to be around novel writers - because the enormity and mess of it is so different from other forms of creative writing. I have been really fortunate - I belong to an online support group of six writers (Hexenschuss - named after James Joyce's sciatica) - at the beginning of each week we review the previous one and talk about intentions, provide encouragement, and much more besides - and we meet up on Skype once a month. This year I have also been attending the Writer's Cave - a sort of pop-up just up the road from me. A writer opens up her dining room for writers to write silently but in company one or two evenings a week. This has been the best thing for really getting into my writing. And from that I have met another writer who has invited me into his writers' group which meets at a cafe once a month for mutual critique. I really like (and feel hugely grateful for) having these separate groups that relate to different aspects of a writing life -
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Sarah Selecky

Hi Quinn! You know, corresponding the old-fashioned way is marvellous for writers. Especially introverts living outside of metropolitan areas. I have a dear writing friend in Sweden who I haven't met in person yet, but we write letters to each other about our writing life. This relationship brings me so much joy. I also have a dear writing friend who lives in Toronto - not far from me at all - and WE write each other letters in the mail, also. Writers are really really good letter writers (go figure). I truly cherish this way of connecting. What if you reached out to someone you've met online, and suggest a correspondence by post?
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Sarah Selecky

I love this suggestion, Lindsay. It's a wonderful way to connect with like-minded writers; knowing what you love to read can be as important as the writing itself.
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Sarah Selecky

Of course, I recommend The Story Intensive as well! I'm quite taken by this Writers' Cave -- so simple, and yet so profound. Anyone can do that - open your doors one evening for silent writing practice - and you could easily become the glue for a community.
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Sarah Selecky

Agreed!
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Steph VanderMeulen

Quinn: I'm happy to see you're finding community on the SSM Facebook page!!
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Sarah, writing by post (snail mail is what my students call it) is a great idea. I love letters and stationery and stuff :-). I'll make that suggestion and see if anyone is interested. Thank you!
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Mary Nicholson

Wow! Such great ideas on here- I LOVE the idea of slow letter writing and the "Writer's Cave"! I am part of an incredible group of writers who meet online about once a month to share stories, and who are in touch almost daily for accountability and encouragement. Why I think we work together so well is that we WANT EACH OTHER TO SUCCEED. We have different levels of writing experience, varied interests in writing genres (from short stories to plays to scripts and novels), and while the writing practice is a solo act, we move as a tribe towards our individual goals. I can't say enough about finding your tribe, and also what a great cheerleader Sarah has been to encourage writing community- in fact, she helped us to find each other after the very first Story Intensive!
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Thank you, Steph. Yes, I am! Although Facebook isn't my fav place to hang out, the SSM group is a great place to "talk shop." I love Sarah's suggestion of finding a post partner to share writing. That sounds like a great fit for me because it is unlikely that I'll find a good critique group locally. So my new mission is to find someone who writes regularly and doesn't mind waiting for the post :-).
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Steph VanderMeulen

Mary, I think you're absolutely right. We want each other to succeed. There's no holding each other back or withholding encouragement or suggestions or tips. Really, the success of our individual writing is everyone's success in the group.
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Steph VanderMeulen

If you end up wanting to meet online, Skype and Google Hangouts work for our group. I always feel like I'm actually with the others physically. We met last night, actually. I always look at them and think, these women are my very best friends. And I've met only one in person!
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I've been a part of a writing group that meets weekly for about a year now and it is fantastic. In the past, I enjoyed the writing community on scribophile.com. This is a great option for anyone who can't seem to find the right group in their area, or like me, just doesn't like to leave their home all that much. :) It's free and friendly.
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