THE IMPORTANCE OF A WRITING COMMUNITY Conferences…Twitter…Critique Groups…Oh My!
Writing is a solitary pursuit. As writers, we pour our beverage of choice, settle into our favorite writing spot, pull out our laptops or notebooks, and then brainstorm, outline, draft, and revise. If the phone rings or the washing machine beckons, we try to ignore those distractions. When children arrive home from school or loved ones pull into the driveway, we may find ourselves grumbling just a tad—it’s okay to admit it—wishing we had just a few more precious minutes of silence in which to create.
This mental isolation may be one of the most significant missteps writers make. Not in their writing itself, but in being writers. Writing requires concentration, and this often necessitates minimal distractions. But it is time well spent when writers, before or after emerging from their cozy creative burrows, connect with other writers.
When I began pursuing writing as more than a pastime, I’d sit at my computer and write. Alone. I stumbled across SCBWI’s website ten years ago and thought, “This could be helpful.” I joined. An acquaintance told me, “You should go to a conference.” But it took me another six years to finally attend one. I’m not ready for that, I imagined. Conferences are for writers with more experience than me who know what they’re doing. Umm…WHAT? No. No. NO!
After registering for my first New York SCBWI conference, my husband asked, “How do you feel?” My reply? “I think I’m going to vomit.” The conference was three months away and I had turbo jet planes dive bombing in my stomach. Three months later, I realized attending that conference was the best thing I’d ever done for myself as a writer. But not just for the obvious reasons of honing my craft, networking with agents and editors, and being inspired by keynote authors. The most important lesson I took away was how much my writer spirit had been wanting by not becoming involved earlier with the writing community. Maybe I was intimidated by it. Perhaps, because I was unpublished, I didn’t think I belonged there. Maybe I'd been fearful there would be a sense of cut throat competition. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Becoming engaged with fellow writers brings support, camaraderie and encouragement from others who know what it’s like to feel that unyielding call to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—and create. Since first attending that SCBWI Winter Conference, I have attended more conferences and workshops. I’ve connected online with other writers and writing groups. And I’ve met friendly, creative individuals who have encouraged me to persevere in my writing. I now write more than I ever did before. Just when I start to feel low or worn out, I meet another writer experiencing similar struggles, I hear a children’s writer give an inspiring speech, or I listen to an agent’s unique tips on voice or plot or characterization…and I’m on track again. Ready to tackle my writing with fresh insights and renewed energy.
Do not underestimate the value of connecting with the writing community. Be it SCBWI, Facebook or Twitter contacts, critique partners, writing groups, workshops and conferences…they all play valuable roles in keeping writers centered and focused on their writing goals. Yes, I still prefer to write all by myself, with a cup of hot tea close at hand, a candle burning, and my dog resting her chin on my laptop. But without the companionship of the writing community, I’d be less productive, less motivated, and far more tempted to hurl my computer out the window during those moments of writing frustration. So, if you haven’t done so yet, discover the writing world beyond your four walls. Join SCBWI, attend writing workshops and conferences, start a writers’ group, join a critique group, and network with fellow writers online.
Write on your own. But be a writer with those who share your passion for the art of the written word. I promise…we don’t bite!
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