Community and Writing

Just recently, I started meeting with two other writers in my area to exchange work, and edit and provide feedback. We’ve been meeting for a few months now, and I have to say it’s been extremely helpful. So today’s post is going to be about the value of community and finding people you can trust to give you constructive criticism.

I spent a lot of my early days writing alone. I was a very quiet, introverted child, and I struggled with self-esteem issues and depression starting at a very young age. It may be hesitant to share basically anything with others, and I had a lot of escapist tendencies, including reading and writing.

This was (and still is) my idea of a perfect place.

That being said, one of the few clear memories I have from that time is reading a poem I’d written for class aloud. It was part of the assignment, and I was extremely uncomfortable during the entire recitation. But at the end, the room fell silent for a long moment. I couldn’t breathe, just waiting for someone to start pointing and laughing at me. Instead, someone started clapping and the rest of the room joined in. Something about what I’d written had resonated with the class, and it was my first brush with the euphoria that comes from creating something that others really enjoy.

As I got older and technology evolved, I found writing communities online. BBS boards and mailing lists allowed me to share my writing with others, get feedback (both good and bad), and I improved quickly during that time. I found the same kind of pattern in college during a creative writing course, where I got targeted constructive feedback from my professor. I didn’t always agree with him, but my writing improved drastically.

One of the benefits of working with other writers is that you get another set of eyes on your work. You may think the story you just wrote is the most amazing piece of literature to ever have been created in the history of the written word, but other people don’t have that same perspective. They’ll let you know when you’ve written something that’s awkward or doesn’t make sense or needs further explanation. I get it a LOT from my current writing group, which is really good because I’m writing a mystery in a world with its own set of supernatural rules and regulations. I’m literally the only person who knows all of the ins and outs of it, and if someone else gets lost, it means I didn’t give them enough information.

It’s also very good practice to edit someone else’s work. It forces you to interact with another voice, other characters and settings, and it also improves your ability to catch spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and issues with pacing, characterizations, or voice. I also really enjoy editing, as strange as it sounds. I sometimes get lost in editing my work, tweaking things until they’re just right. It’s a joy to try and do the same for my fellow writers.

I’ve also joined a couple of groups for independent authors. Indie publishing is a tough row to hoe, with a lot of tricks that beginners (like myself) don’t know. Finding a group of people with varying experience levels in the indie publishing world gives you so many resources to pull from and improve your own publishing experience. Already, I’ve learned more than I would’ve just on my own from the few groups I’m involved in. It also gives you a place to complain and freak out, and then find support. The group I’m in is especially good about supporting its members, however that support is manifested.

I check these pretty regularly, even though I haven’t posted anything new since June.

I’ve always thrived on feedback when it comes to my art. I get to a point where I start to worry that what I’m doing isn’t good enough, and I need that external validation to feel enough confidence to move forward. I don’t need it as much as I used to, but having someone tell you that what you’re doing is good always feels nice. When the people telling you that are other writers, it feels especially good. I would recommend going out there, finding a writing group or a message board or some kind of community to become active in. You’ll gain something from it, I promise.

Apologies for the short post today. I’ve got five chapters to edit for my writing group (hence the inspiration for this post) and 1,000 words to add to Reader before I can head to bed tonight. I’ll be back on Friday, and I think I’ll be talking about grammar. Take care!

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