Please welcome my latest guest; over to you, Erin.
A Community of Writers
When most people think of writers, they picture solitary creatures hiding away in dark caves and typing to a computer screen’s glow. Alright, so I suppose that’s not too far from the truth–I’m doing that right now–but what many don’t understand is that writers aren’t alone. There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles. And that’s a very important realization because while writing allows us to create brilliant worlds and stories, we often have to deal with another obstacle other than loneliness: depression.
I’m no stranger when it comes to depression and anxiety. I walk with them, hand in hand, every day of my life, and sometimes I get dragged along, kicking, screaming, and crying. For writers, it can almost feel tenfold. We put our hearts on paper and send it off to agents, only to be rejected over and over again. We publish our books and watch anxiously as reviews come in, telling us if we’re worthy or not. We attach our self-worth to the number of words we write or books we’ve sold. On top of that, we deal with people degrading us for our craft, asking about our “little project,” or insisting we get a “real” job and stop living in a fantasy world.
Sounds pretty bleak, right? Well, that’s why finding a writing community is so important.
While I was growing up, I didn’t have one. I felt like the weirdo who spent more time scribbling in a Lisa Frank folder than playing outside with her friends. But when I hit high school, I was introduced to a writing forum based on the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Imagine my shock when I could create characters and write about them, and people would actually respond. This was the first time I didn’t feel alone as a writer.
This kind of online networking still exists today in roleplaying sites or even on places like Wattpad. Here, writers and readers come together to share stories, comment, vote, write/read, and message one another.
Twitter and Instagram are both great places for building a writing community as well. Between things like #pitchwars and #pitchmad (events that allow you to mentor with other writers or pitch your stories to agents) you get to meet a lot of people. There are also hashtags people can follow to talk about their experiences, like #writingcommunity. One of my favorite events is the #chance2connect meetup led by Kim Chance (@_KimChance). Once a month, she posts questions that writers can answer that encourage the community to interact and get people to meet one another. I’ve stayed up late having great conversations with some fantastic writers.
But what if you don’t want to meet people online? Well, there are writing conventions like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference. I spent about four days in Denver, Colorado sitting in on literary lectures and meeting both new and published authors, agents, editors, etc. We had meals together, learned from one another, and created friendships that still last today. I would love to go back! I felt so inspired and encouraged. It helped me realize that writing is honestly what I want to do with my life, even if I have to deal with the depression, too.
Of course, not all of us can travel or pay for conferences. So how do you find your community in town? One way is to check Meetup. You might find writing events that are hosted in your local area. There’s National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Many cities have municipal liaisons who set up writing get-togethers. Check the NaNo site to find your area! If you look in library calendars, or maybe a local literary paper, you might find a group of writers. Or, if you’re in the Iowa area, you’re always welcome to join me at The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free, safe environment to writers of all incomes, genders, skillsets, etc. If you’re looking for workshop, then there’s the brilliant Iowa Writers’ House.
This quest to find the right community was part of the inspiration behind my book The Purple Door District. I wanted my parahumans to have a place to call home, a group of folks both alike and different from them who could make them feel wanted and loved. That’s really the biggest theme behind the first book: community.
You’re not alone. There are writers out there looking for companionship and the chance to just sit and brainstorm story ideas. Some of my best work comes out when I’m with other writers because I’m happy. I know that I’m not the only one struggling or going through this big process of creating a book. Most of all, I love to meet people and learn about their journeys. I believe that it’s important that we, as writers, learn to support each other in our personal quests. This world is hard enough as it is. I’d rather spend my day encouraging an author than trying to rise above them.
Maybe a community can’t take away your insecurities when it comes to rejection or publishing your work, but it can sure be there to bolster you when you feel down.
You’re not alone, and you matter.
Erin graduated from Cornell College in 2009 with degrees in English and Secondary Education. She decided to expand upon her teaching knowledge by leading writing sessions at first for the Iowa Writers’ House and now for The Writers’ Rooms.
She attended the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009 and has been a recruiter ever since. She is the Communications and Student Relationships Manager at The Iowa Writers’ House and the Director of The Writers’ Rooms.
She’s also a devoted bird mom.
When not volunteering and working, she’s querying her LGBT YA fantasy story, posting urban and regular fantasy on Wattpad, and sharing her literary journey on WordPress and Instagram.
She released her first book, The Purple Door District, in December 2018. The sequel, Wolf Pit, is set to come out December 2019.
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