In my last post, I shared thoughts about what community means to me. Today I want to take that a step farther and talk about why every writer needs a community.
Writing is a solitary activity, one we do in any number of places, but always alone. Writers need to shut out the rest of the world in order to think and put words together in a way that makes sense and communicates clearly. The work of writing is rewarding, but often arduous and frustrating. Writers need to force themselves to sit and write, learning to ignore the many distractions around them. Writing is complex. There are many words to choose from, but writers need to find the right one to convey just the right nuance. Research takes hours. Characters take on a life of their own and put twists into the plot the author wasn’t expecting. Most writers squeeze their craft in while working at a full-time career or raising a family. Writers put their heart and soul into their work. It’s an art. And in the life of an artist, critics abound. Often the worst critic is the writer himself.
What does community provide for a writer?
- People who speak the same language – Those who don’t write, don’t understand how writers need to write. They don’t understand why we talk to our characters. They don’t get why we spend hours on our craft, often late at night or very early in the morning when most people are sleeping. A writing group provides a place to tell it like it is and find understanding.
- Encouragement and support – Writing has been compared to giving birth. We labor for months, sometimes years, over a project. We revise and rewrite and then sometimes we are brave enough to submit. Some writers have enough rejection slips to paper their walls. When our work is rejected, it’s hard to separate our work from ourselves and we can also feel rejected. When our work is published, we want the whole world to celebrate with us, but the reality is that many sell less than 500 copies of their books. A writing group provides a venue to vent frustrations and cheer each other on. In Christian writing groups we are also able to pray for each other and share encouraging verses that uplift others.
- Objective feedback – It’s almost impossible to edit our own work properly. Often when we read our own work, we read what we intended to write instead of what’s in front of us in black and white. Reading out loud helps, but it’s even more helpful to have a critique group who will give you objective feedback. Writing groups may provide critiques. Although it’s nice to have people tell us we write well, we also need people who will tell us when we need to go back to the proverbial drawing board or give suggestions on how to make our writing really come alive. We can pay editors to do this work, but getting a variety of opinions is also very useful.
One group of writers I belong to is InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. This group offers an annual fall conference as well as many ways to connect using the internet. I live in a rural area where there is no writing group that meets in person. InScribe has filled a huge gap for me. If you’re a Canadian writer who is a Christian, I invite you to come join us.