A popular post from April 2009
by Annette Lyon
This past weekend I attended writing conference and sat in our own Josi's class about building your own writing community. It's a topic I hadn't thought much about as a topic, but when I stopped and sat back, I realized just how important it is.
I'm sure Josi will do a much better job of explaining it another time (please do, Josi!), but for now, I want to mention it and encourage writers to build their own communities.
You'll have many types as your career progresses, and they're all important in their own way. I can safely say that without some of mine, I wouldn't be where I am today.
For me, the start here was with the League of Utah Writers and my local chapter meetings. Look around where you are to see if there's a similar organization where you live.
From chapter meetings, I branched out to attending LUW's annual conference (boy, was I terrified for that first one!) and then their spring workshops. I made several writer friends I'm still in contact with today.
I learned a ton, but even better, thanks to some of those contacts, I ended up landing in my next type of community:
I joined a group with several aspiring, but unpublished, writers. Over nine years later, we're all published, several of us are award-winning, and we've all got writing careers and deadlines.
But it's more than success our group has brought; it's also provided us with emotional support. There are some things only other writers understand, and those are the things you can share around the critique group table. I know I get antsy and on edge if I miss too many weeks of meetings. I need my group to keep me in balance.
These encompass a lot of things:
E-mail lists made up of lots of writers who are in the same market you are.
Your blog and the blogs of others you read and the relationships you build through them.
Online critique groups, forums, and other organizations you belong to.
Online marketing efforts.
These can all be amazingly powerful in many ways. My online communities have given moral support, provided answers to research questions, and brought me many friends and professional contacts.
The longer I'm in this business, the more I see that those who are willing to give and help each other out are the ones who will succeed the most in the long run.
Keep in mind that how you present yourself to some of your communities is critical. My critique group doesn't mind if I occasionally whine and throw a pity party, but you won't see the same kind of thing on my blog, where I need to maintain a bit more professionalism. Whining isn't a way to make people want to buy my books.
By the same token, be aware of how you present yourself in blog comments, at conferences, and in other professional interactions.
With blogs and e-mail in particular, you might be trying to be funny but come across in a way you didn't intend, because tone can be hard to interpret correctly in those venues.
Always be genuine and honest in every community. Be yourself. But that doesn't mean publicly criticizing someone else in your market or otherwise demeaning another person.
As Josi said in her class, publishing is a small sandbox; play nice.
What you put out will come back to you in spades, whether it's positive or negative. It's definitely worth sending out the positive.