Friday, September 16, 2022

Filling the Creative Well with Writing Communities

Writing communities tend to proliferate like rabbits. You think you don’t have any, then you turn around and you have six. I’m not any different. I thought I was out here all on my own until I began counting things up and yes, I have writing communities. A lot of them. They fall into a few categories:

  •  Organizations
  •  Publisher
  •  Educational
  •  Committed

Organizations are professional groups like RWA, SFWA, local chapters, and any other regional writing groups we might be members of. Pre-pandemic, these communities functioned both in-person and online. Now, they’re mostly online with a few tentative in-person events starting. The power of professional organizations is in the numbers – a wide range of knowledge and experience is available. The disadvantage of professional organizations is in the numbers – that wide range of points of view can and does stir drama. Regional or focused-interest groups (thriller, mystery or PNR groups) are a good energizer because you’re in a community of writers who understand your genre and presumably your interests. It creates synergy. Local chapters are the smallest of the professional organizations but that often translates into more frequent in-person interactions and more detailed sharing around your specific writing needs because you know the smaller group and they know you.

I derive energy from professional orgs because I never feel quite so valid as a writer as when I’m soaking up business advice from people who’ve already been where I am.

Publisher/publishing house – Many publishers have started author communities as a means of leveraging cross-marketing. These communities work under the premise that a rising tide lifts all boats. Occasionally, a publisher takes community to the next level and does a conference in an exotic location and then the virtual turns into an in-person excursion to Ireland. It’s a chance to put faces to the names you routinely see asking for newsletter spots and retweets.

I derive energy from my publishing community because my publisher is run by a committed group of people who really do give a darn about everyone who writes for them and who are passionate about the business.

Educational communities/co-ops/etc – Writing classes tend to engender community, if only for the length of the class. Don’t underestimate those class-length connections, though. Critique partners are often found through classes. Author co-ops are longer term associations focused on promotional/educational synergy. These communities fill my ‘always learning’ well. They are currently all virtual and online.

I derive energy from education and learning. Almost always. There are exceptions and in those exceptional cases, I’ve learned to walk away and go find a different class.

Committed communities – These are the long-term relationships we build with other writers. Critique groups. Our personal author circles. For me these are the communities that cross over the line between ‘writer community’ to friends. Well, okay. Friends who also write and who can dispense writing advice from time to time. These are the people who can, and do, apply a much-needed swift kick when the situation calls for it.  They bolster confidence and make suggestions for fixing that scene the mean old editor hated. Almost all my communities are virtual, including this one. I had in-person, then I moved across a continent. Critique still happens once a week, it’s just on Zoom. At the end of the month, I’ll have a quick, in-person visit when I take a short road trip. And I’ll get all kinds of energy from that.