26 September 2014 - 6:26 pm

Random Writing Tip #11: Reach Out

Reach out. You know you want to.  (Picture by Joey Gannon)

Reach out. You know you want to.
(Picture by Joey Gannon)

Writing is a solitary activity. We build worlds in our heads, make up characters that make sense only to us, imagine stories, and then put fingers to the page, pushing it all out into a story or poem. We shut ourselves up in garrets, or sit alone in cafes, or close the door to our room or office. We put in our headphones and tune out the world.

We struggle, we strive, all in the privacy of the writer. We get used to not speaking to anyone about it. We get used to not trying to explain this strange, wondrous, draining, hard thing we do.

We’re also pretty damned stupid.

Writing does not have to be a solitary activity. There are people just like you, all around you. They might not be your family, your colleagues, or your friends – yet. If you look for them, you’ll find them everywhere.

So reach out. See if you can find some like-minded people in your area. Online works, too, but try closer to home, too. You’ll be surprised!

You can join writing groups, or if there aren’t any that suit what you’re looking for, start your own. You can join NaNoWriMo. You can hold your own write-ins. Join forums and boards and Twitter conversations.

You don’t have to get together for formal meetings. You don’t have to read each other’s work (or share your own). You could do all of that, or you just get together to sit in companionable silence in a cafe or someone’s lounge, typing and scribbling down words. What you do is completely up to you, but make sure you do.

Everyone needs a support network, and we shouldn’t underestimate the value of those who understand those voices in your head, the plot point you’re struggling with, or the word you just can’t think of. It’s startling how productive a session of writing with a bunch of people can be, when common sense says that you’d probably be too distracted.

It’s not about writing the same piece, or collaborating, or comparing notes, or who can write the most in ten minutes. Writers are the least competitive group I’ve ever come across (though word wars (writing sprints) do work!). It’s about people who get you. It’s about sharing something and feeling supported. It’s about knowing that you’re not really alone, even when you’re writing something deeply personal and private.

So reach out. Find those other writers who are just brimming to talk about that thing they’re working on, to someone who just gets it. Revel in the wondrous feeling of an awesome community. Call each other by internet handles, or pen-names, or random nicknames. Laugh about wayward characters who won’t behave. Bounce ideas off each other. Be lifted up by the enthusiasm of the group. Be inspired.

I did. I’ll never look back. Best decision for my life and my writing I’ve ever made.

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  1. Francisco says:

    I found that I’m writing a lot more now that I’ve joined a Creative Writing Group/Class.[1] Not only that but I find that I can find more plots and more ways of doing things, and I’m more motivated to write in general. Furthermore, you test story ideas/characters out and see what people think. You may be pushed to write outside your comfort zone and just by twisting a plot you are thinking of writing, you may see plot holes and/or solutions to problems that you had not seen before.

    I’ve found that connecting with a friend who happens to be another writer helps when your work is causing you emotional pain (e.g. if the only ideas you are getting ones in a genre that you’re too embarrassed to write in or your current work brings back traumatic memories).

    [1] We have a tutor and are set home work but it’s officially a group rather than a class (meaning we don’t have any form of examination). Feedback is given by other members of the group as well as the tutor.

    September 28th, 2014 at 5:53 am

  2. Mel says:

    That’s wonderful! I’m so glad that your group/class is working for you.

    I am so grateful for the support I get for my writing, both from fellow writers and from my readers. You’re right: it really does help with the painful or embarrassing stuff. I believe they all make me a better writer. 🙂

    September 28th, 2014 at 3:56 pm