A Writing Community: Why You Need One & How to Build It
The first writer's group I belonged to formed right after I graduated from my MFA in creative writing at California College of the Arts. This is probably one of the biggest benefits of pursuing an MFA--aside from the few blissful years of binge-writing--finding a community of writers and readers you respect and admire. So a few friends and I hand-selected a group of recent writing grads who fit the bill.
We met every other week for the two years I lived in San Francisco post graduation, with two writers handing over twenty-pages of new material to be workshopped at each meeting. We stuck to our meetings religiously and the group continued to meet long after I moved away from the city.
Writing groups are a great opportunity not only to bounce ideas and questions off of other writers, but to reduce the amount of annoyance you create for loved ones by repeatedly asking them to, “Read my work and tell me what you think!” when you only have a messy first draft.
In Boston, I longed for that same outlet of talented readers and writers to form a community with. Slowly, after attending writing conferences and readings and residencies, I culled together a group of all-female writers. We meet over Skype twice a month, following the same schedule. We are all writing novels. We are all pursuing our individual publishing goals and paths. We are all learning how to create a community within a world that requires so much solitary work.
So how do you build your own writing community? I’m glad you asked.
Tips for Building Your Own Writing Community:
*Go to all the local literary events you can. Writer meet-ups, author readings, conferences, and classes all great ways to network and meet other local writers. Pick those who you connect with and want to form long-term partnerships with!
*Choose writing partners who are similarly serious about the work as you are. Hobbyists jotting down poems and bits of fiction? Great. Die-hard novelists pumping out manuscript after manuscript? Perfect. Just find a team whose goals align with your own.
*Stick to the schedule. In my writing group, I’m known to be the one who forces us to stick to our deadlines and scheduled meetings. I try to make sure we continue to submit work individually at least once a month because that keeps us in the mind-frame of creativity. It’s easy to skip a meeting, and then two, and three until the group slowly dissolves without you realizing what happened.
*Retreat into your writing. Each summer, my writing group and I--since we do not all live in the same country--rent a cozy Airbnb for a long weekend. We write, we workshop, we cook, we swim, we drink wine, we commune. This time is so valuable and, I find, it reconfirms my commitment to my writing. So if you don’t get into that exclusive residency, or can’t afford that expensive conference, curate your compatriots, pick a location, and go the DIY route.
**For those interested in retreating with me this summer and recommitting to your writing, there are still spots open for Writing the Roots: A Summer Weekend Retreat**