Feature

Why A Writers’ Community Is Important

Aashmika A

November 02, 2018

When one thinks of the process of writing, words like “solitary”, “isolated”, and “reclusive” are likely to pop up. It’s true – we as writers often spend long lonesome hours trying to effectually churn out stories from our hearts, minds, souls or whatever shady place it is that stories come from. Sometimes, we succeed. More often though, we are assaulted by unpleasant suspicions: What if we’re not good enough? What if we’re not actually cut out for this? What if we’re no more than cheap conjurers pretending to be wizards?

Self-doubt. Good old writerly insecurity. And that’s just the tip of it. The iceberg that sinks our ship on a daily basis is made of all sorts of colourful things – procrastination, writer’s block, self-induced solitary confinement, lack of motivation, inspiration, support, understanding. And being the captain of a ship that is, without doubt, going to run into this titanic iceberg can be truly challenging. One of the only things that help us stay afloat is the buoyant understanding of others in the same situation. A writers’ community, a clan of like-hearted multi-minded writers and readers, our own crew of listeners, who, simply put, get it.

As writers, we often place ourselves apart from the rest, but to think that one must be isolated from people in order to write stories for and about them is absurd. A sense of community – be it in the form of a Facebook group, a weekly workshop, a Google Drive club, or even weekend meets at a coffee shop – is important for a writer from any literary background. Coming together – virtually or physically – to create a literary environment can help us thrive as writers.

It is this type of community that turns writing into a pristine balance of an individual and group project. You gain insight into a variety of things that you couldn’t have solitarily procured, and at the same time, you’re the one who does all the work – and subsequently, gets the reward.

During my time studying Creative Writing at Oxford, I invariably became a part of an intimate writer’s community. We received prompts, guidelines, and various techniques from published writers, gave each other critical feedback, and exchanged suggestions on character and plot development – not just in a formal setting, but informally too, on a more personal basis. We became one another’s sounding boards, and each day, the iceberg became less daunting. A writer’s group may consist of people we don’t necessarily know, but over the course of sharing stories and collaborating ideas, they become our family, our friends, our peers and competitors, mentors and teachers, our protectors, therapists, and supporters.

Here’s how a writer’s community can help a writer:

  1. Creative Accountability: A writer’s community is, surprise, all about the writing. Writing is the top priority. Writing is the goal. Speaking with experience, it’s extremely easy to forget to write. In today’s world, we’ve become awfully good at overlooking passion. And since most of us don’t write for the money, our passion has the tendency to quickly dissolve in other responsibilities. But being part of a writer’s community helps make writing itself a responsibility. A responsibility to ourselves. It doesn’t matter where we’re from, what we actually do for a living. A writer’s group makes sure that we, most importantly, evolve and progress as writers. And one is only a writer when one writes. When you’re part of a larger literary community, writing becomes a disciplined, systematic thing – so along with developing full-blown character dialogues in the shower, and constructing intricate plots in our heads during a meeting, we make it a point to sit down at our desks regularly and get down to literary business. A creative community ensures serious creative output. A creative community demands accountability. And at the end of the day, you come out feeling creatively productive – which is indubitably one of the best feelings in the world.
  1. Critical Feedback: Members of a writers’ community provide the essential feedback required for the growth of any writer. This holds as true for amateur writers as for well-established professional writers. Even the most prolific of writers are in genuine need of critique. Constructive criticism by people who know what they’re talking about only enriches a piece of work. Advice by fellow writers – pointers about potential plot holes, simple reminders about the gravity of grammar and punctuation, book suggestions to widen knowledge on particular genres and techniques- only helps make our work better. A good writing group provides honest evaluation within a positive framework. Response – of any kind – ignites ideas and thoughts that add a different angle to a story we think has exhausted all possibilities. A literary community is all about interacting with people with a literary mindset. Even passive presence, simply keeping oneself breathing within a literary environment, can have a lot of benefits. Observing the different styles of writing, witnessing the different voices and techniques different writers employ, helps. Since members of a writing community are diverse in all senses, a multiverse of perspectives opens up simply by being around them. A writing group can also be the perfect space to share any self-cultivated tips on writing practices, information regarding readings, seminars, and workshops, and news on international creative writing competitions and events.
  1. Fellowship and Support: The most important perk of a writing community is that it functions as a support group. A mental, emotional, spiritual, creative support network. Everyone on the group knows the fear, is well-versed with the anxiety, of sharing their work with the outer world. A writer’s group is perhaps the only place outside publication where one’s fictional worlds are treated with understanding and respect. It’s the place where each writer has at one point felt like “the worst writer in the world”, where each one has torn themselves and their work down, and felt small and insignificant with respect to the larger body of literature. A writers’ community is the one place where no writer is an outcast, where every writer belongs. Inside of the community, one will find daily prompts, be it in the form of fiction or poetry, or in the form of encouragement – quotes by the literary greats, that are nothing if not motivating. A writing community is a safe place, the bridge between oneself and the general public. It’s free from trolls and useless negative comments; instead, it’s the platform where writers can bare themselves without judgement. Simply socialising with fellow writers, simply knowing somebody else is on the same journey as us, can be beneficial in many ways. Being part of a chorus can help us identify our own voice better.

There are numerous literary circles you can be a part of, depending on your own intention and criteria for joining a writer’s community. There is no dearth of these, but a good genuine writer’s community can be hard to find. Locating a group you can identify with, a group that is well worth your time, is important. There are some that require a monthly fee or request yearly donations, but most communities are free to join. They are expansive when it comes to nationality, genre, and profile, but selecting one that suits your personal interests and style is paramount in you being a valued member of that community.

If you’re looking to give and receive feedback on your writing, check out online communities like Critique Circle, Scribophile, Writers Café, and Reddit/r/Write. These are places where you will receive no-fluff critiques on your writing by amateur as well as professional writers.

If you are struggling for inspiration, want to develop a habit of writing, or are simply in need of a creative atmosphere you can thrive in, check out Writers.com, Critters Writers Workshop, Get Underlined, and The Hatrack River Writers Workshop. These come with writing prompts, masterclasses, and other resources on writing and reading.

If you’re specifically looking to understand the business of books – the publishing, editing, marketing side of writing, check out Absolute Write Water Cooler, AgentQuery Connect, The Literary Marketplace, and The BBC Writers Room.

To join the renowned writerly revolution, head over to NaNoWriMo, and learn how to write a novel in 30 days. There is also a Facebook group called NanoLand, for writers who are taking part in the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

Writer’s communities established on Facebook are comparatively easier to join and remain a part of. Examples include The Write Life Community, 10 Minute Novelists, Writers Helping Writers, and The Aspiring Travel Writer. TCR’s new Facebook Writer’s Group called The Writers’ Lab is also a one-stop destination for everything writing-related- you’ll get prompts, receive feedback, and learn how to hone your craft through masterclasses.

For a more comprehensive list of writer groups and communities, check out Book Pipeline and The Write Life.

Just like a religious or cultural community, a writer’s community grants an addictive sense of belonging. But unlike other communities, a writer’s community is a visible manifestation of the bonds shared over distance, time, and change. Community for a writer assures that however fantastical the worlds we create might be, they are, for an eternal instant, very real. We are each responsible for our words and worlds and at the same time, are beholden to one another’s alchemy. We need to help each other out, we need to stay connected because however much we may like to pretend, writers are not alone.

If you’re tempted to join a writers’ community, then look no further! The Curious Reader and Bound have created a free 30-day programme to help you build a habit of writing. With daily prompts, inspirational quotes, educational articles, and masterclasses with experts, this free programme will help you write more and write better. Join us on Facebook and develop your writing habit.

How important is a creative connection to you? Should writers include themselves as part of a community to better their craft? What kind of support do you look for as a writer, and what are some ways you get it? Share with us in the comments below.

Aashmika

Aashmika

Aashmika is a writer from Mumbai. She recently completed her MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University and also has an MA in English Literature from Mithibai College, Mumbai. She is also a belly dancer, which successfully battles her professional introversion. When she isn’t reading or writing prose or poetry, she is watching TV shows. She loves animals, tattoos, nature, and taking pictures of things.

Aashmika is currently working on her first novel (but don’t ask her about it).