Earlier in the week, I was assaulted by debilitating doubts. This is something that cycles through every writer, and I know this. I’ve spoken about this. But still, when I was faced with my latest manuscript, trying to get it ready to send to my agent, all I could hear was, “She’s not going to like this. What will I do if she doesn’t like this?”
There was so much pressure on producing something amazing, that I could not produce anything at all.
So I logged onto Facebook, typed a message to my mastermind group, and waited to hear from them. The encouragement came pouring in. “Every writer goes through these times of doubt,” they said. “You know your writing is good enough,” they said. “There’s always something else you can do if it doesn’t work.”
All things I knew. All things I had momentarily forgotten.
This is what community can do for a writer.
I’m a part of several different communities. I have early readers who read first drafts of my work, I have writers groups where I ask questions and sometimes answer others’ questions and interact with people who have the same goals I have. I have a mastermind group where I pick master writer brains and listen to their professional opinions. These are all important communities to be a part of. Writing can be a lonely profession, and in order to thrive at this work, we must have groups to which we belong with people who can encourage us, provide feedback and sometimes just stand in solidarity.
Here are a few of the benefits that a writing community can give you:
Groups exist where you can get early feedback on manuscripts, blogs, nonfiction books and ideas and collect helpful suggestions for how to improve your manuscript or strengthen some weak spots. These are valuable perks for being a part of a community.
I’ve already mentioned that encouragement is a big deal. Writing is mostly mental, which means that some days we’ll crumble under that mental burden. Everybody does. That’s why it’s helpful to have a community of people who understand that today you only wrote 50 words because you couldn’t get out of your own way.
3. Tips and tricks.
Some groups exist just to provide tips and tricks for writing mechanics, career choices, business decisions, etc. These are helpful groups to have in your array, because many have been where you are and have helpful things to say about their own mistakes and what they wish they’d done.
Being a part of a writing community helps connect you with other writers and experts in their field. This can open up the opportunity for collaboration or introduce you to industry contacts. My writers groups are populated with professional editors and cover designers, too, which makes it really easy to secure services when I need them.
Being a member of a writing community is a vital part of becoming an expert writer. Feedback is essential. Interaction is essential. And learning from the mistakes of others (and our own mistakes, of course) is also essential.
Being a member of a writing community can also present its challenges. We’re parents. It’s really hard for me to get out of my house and attend a local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators meeting on a Saturday, because children. I attend the ones I can, and I stay informed, and I find other groups in places like Facebook or through paid community sites. I don’t prefer online, of course, but sometimes this is the best we can do when we’re a parent.
Our kids won’t always need us, and I want to enjoy this time when they’re little, which means I have to excuse myself from things for a while. Don’t feel badly if you have to as well. But do find some kind of community that will work. Because writing is tough. And community helps carry us through the shaky places.
Find your community and watch your writing thrive.
Susanne K. Langer
When you were a child, were you encouraged to ask questions? How did this encouragement or discouragement help or impair you? How do you approach questions today? (Use this exercise on your character.)
Or write about the right kind of questions that should be asked.