The writing life is a lonely one. It takes dedication and requires time shut away from the world. The struggle to keep from becoming a shut-in is real. Annie Evett illustrates this dilemma in her blog post The Lonely Life of a Writer. Loneliness is discouraging, and leads talented people to give up on their dreams all the time. This is why it’s so important for us ink-slingers to stick together.
When I moved to Springfield, Illinois I was delighted to find SpriFiWri, an organized group of local writers. They welcomed me with open arms, and for the first time in my career, I had peers to interact with. The group meets twice a month for critique sessions. We divide two hours up among those of us in attendance, read segments of our work aloud, and receive helpful suggestions for how to improve our work. One of our New Year’s resolutions was to hold each other accountable to setting aside time to write more. So twice a month we have ‘write-ins’ at a local coffee shop. I was blown away by how helpful this proved to be. Three of us hashed out almost 10,000 words between us!
Because writers tend to spend so much time alone, we oftentimes develop the mentality that we are alone. I have a large circle of friends, but very few of them are writers. It’s difficult for them to relate to what my life and the effort I put into my work is really like. In SpriFiWri, I found myself surrounded by skilled, talented, hard-working writers with voices and styles all their own. Impressed by the work they shared, it served as a reminder of the talent out there. It gave me a sense of belonging, but also helped me up my game. It reminded me of some wise sayings I heard growing up.
“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”
“You become the company you keep.”
For the first time in my life, I had people to show my work who were just as talented, just as skilled, just as passionate, just as hard-working, and probably more so than me. It’s important to have people in your life who challenge you. Kevin Daum wrote an excellent article about this very subject: Want Success? Surround Yourself With People Who Challenge Your Thinking. As writers, we shouldn’t write to impress people, but there’s nothing wrong with letting others inspire you to do better.
I know some of you are reading this thinking to yourself, “This sounds great. I wish my town had something like this.” First, it might have one already. Research local writing groups online; you might find a group established already.
“But what if I’ve searched high and low, and there are no groups in my area?”
Excellent question! The answer: take initiative, and start one of your own. Find a place to host a meeting. You can start with the Public Library. They’ll let you hang a sign on their bulletin board, post it in their newsletter, and help get you started. If you’re in college, you could do the same thing there. Make a post on Facebook announcing it to the world. Encourage your friends to share your post and spread the word.
You don’t have to emulate the style of SpriFiWri. It can be a social gathering where you meet up, mingle, and uplift each other. You can host critique sessions, or write-ins. Perhaps you want to initiate a group writing project for your community. Maybe a writing convention is coming to a city near you, and you want to plan to go together. The sky is the limit! Find something that works for you and stick with it. Commitment is the greatest challenge in this endeavor, but is so worth the effort to build a community. And don’t be intimidated if you come across someone more skilled or talented than you. This is a good thing! You’ll never learn anything from people who are looking up to you. Only by seeking those greater than ourselves can we truly hope to grow.
If you have questions about how to organize a writers group, please feel free to contact me or leave questions or comments below. Helping other writers succeed is one of my greatest passions. I hope you found this encouraging and helpful. Thank you for reading!