What would a writing community look like?

20180419_130306.jpg

What would a writing community look like?

Okay, here’s the thing: I don’t know. But I have a few ideas. Could you please add yours?

A small workshop group that meets regularly to read and critique each other’s writing. In the classroom, I create small groups who read each other’s rough drafts, prepare comments, and present their editorial feedback in person, face to face. Because each student has submitted work for scrutiny, they recognize each other’s vulnerability in their own. Often students will tell me that they were paralyzed with anxiety before their first workshop, while afterward they feel energized, surprised to discover that they actually enjoyed the experience.

A writing partner. I meet with a friend on occasion to write at her kitchen table, while she does the same. When we’re finished, we read each other what we’ve written (or show each other, if it involves cartoons, which it might). I like working while someone else is working too — working in parallel. But best of all, I like the immediacy of sharing what I’ve just made, which is too fresh and new to be anything but marvellous. And because what we’ve made is so fresh and new and marvellous, there is no critique involved. We just enjoy, and let the thing be what it is. I really like that.

An online group or FB page. When I was running the template for my creativity course, I made a FB page so that participants could share the work they were doing. But not everyone used it. I’ve noticed this with other online FB groups to which I belong … not everyone feels comfortable posting in a semi-public forum to semi-strangers.

A fellow traveller. Occasionally, I meet to talk shop with a local writing friend. We’ve never shared our works-in-progress with each other; instead, we give each other the support and encouragement of fellow travellers on an often bumpy road. There’s a lot we don’t need to explain to each other, and that’s a relief. Over the years, I’ve also reached out to more experienced writers to ask for advice, and have received kind and generous responses.

A blog, like this one. You’re out there. I love hearing from you, because I confess the conversation can feel one-sided at times. Maybe that’s why I forget that my blog has offered me terrific literary connections over the years — almost a decade’s worth of connections, in fact.

Literary magazines. I drop in to The New Quarterly’s office on campus to say hello from time to time. I also find that just reading other writers’ work gives me a sense of connection. Sometimes I just have to respond, often on my blog, though occasionally I’ve written a letter to a writer I don’t know to express appreciation.

Other creative writing teachers. I have not accessed this community at all. There are only a couple of professors who teach creative writing at UW and I’ve utterly failed to reach out to them.

Something I notice as I gather up these ideas. My ideal community is give-and-take. It is non-hierarchical; everyone involved is a participant whose voice has equal value. It feels really good — like friendship does. It’s a conversation. It’s about sharing.

And that’s it, off the top of my head.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with me. Are you a writer seeking community? Maybe you’ve established community already? Maybe you’re not a writer, but you can pinpoint what connections have fed your work and life? What does community mean to you, in practice, not just in theory?

xo, Carrie

Still writing
A pebble dropped on the path

6 Comments

  1. hiya carrie,

    i find community morphs over time, as my writing life changes and i change. it’s a challenge to find a good fit, you know? introverted writer, different ideas of what community means, different ideas of what the written work needs.

    community like writing seems organic.

    right now, i have a friend and we periodically exchange work for general critique and encouragement. i also meet with another writer for side-by-side writing and we verbally share what we write–we use prompts. i have a group of friends and we often talk the writing life, strategies, challenges, etc.etc. without sharing work.

    i rarely share my work in progress as i worry about bad juju. superstitious.

    rea

    Reply
    • Thank you for your insight, Rea! You are absolutely right — community changes as we change, and as we need different kinds of support. Time is also a factor. Time and energy. What I’m sensing, as I explore this question of community, is that I need to figure out what kind of community is sustainable AND sustaining in my life right now. I could organize a local writing group, but that takes energy and time, and I’m already stretched thin.

      I also NEVER share my work in progress. I’m wondering whether I should shift my views on this and consider doing it…. Don’t know. Yup to being superstitious!

      Reply
  2. I never felt I ever belonged anywhere—something I know many writer feel — so I’ve learned to trust that we find our scribe tribe– when we do, how we do — as it unfolds –and as it changes — if that makes sense — when I lived down under ( in The US OF A where I was sooooo lonely and no one even knew I was writer ) every Thursday night I offered a gathering place at my dining room table. I offered writing prompts and we wrote together. The group was always in transition and kind of magical.. usually 12 -14— it was word of mouth.. no fee .. maybe cookies and tea –and I trusted my intuition totally =— I ‘d meet someone I knew was a secret /closet writer…and tell them they were welcome– the result was community in a real sense and we were so diverse ! Many published– some as a result of these gatherings- others just finally got to explore Voice and stories during our evenings together. I miss that . I really do. I also think knowing someone is there to listen without judgment is REALLY IMPORTANT .. then there are times you value feedback. There is “now” of writing freely in first bursts and then the revision of the now writing –another stage/process. On we go as we go on.

    Reply
    • Your group sounds AMAZING, Sheree: spontaneous-feeling, natural in its unfolding, nourishing, fun, an adventure. I will tuck this possibility away in the back of my mind. It sounds like it was meant to be, and was also of its time and place — of its moment, in a way. Like Rea says in her comment on this post, community changes over time.

      My question about a writing community is perhaps most fundamentally about identifying what expression of community is practical, workable, doable in my life right now. Sustainable and sustaining. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about this …

      Reply
  3. Great suggestions Carrie.

    I was desperate for a writing community when I was first starting, so new to even sharing my own writing, still fearing criticism.

    I know a lot of people don’t like it, but I’ve found a lot of my current community there and most has come off of it, into the real world.

    I found a writing mentor there, a few actually, that I’ve followed and then reached out to. I always fear I am expecting too much or coming off as demanding on their time though. Still, I have learned a lot from them, writers more experienced than me, and I count you among those.

    I found two writers who live near me, close enough that we meet up every few months. We don’t come to share our writing, but instead discuss the writing life and its ups and downs, but they are so supportive and have shared their own discovered and developed connections with me, like most recently the CBC.

    Also, I found the writing group at my local library and I go twice a month. We usually have a writing prompt and we all write silently, most times. It’s often a lot of catching up at first, upon arrival. We read out loud to each other and I attribute them for getting me out of my comfort zone, writing less memoir stuff and more fiction. It has resulted in me writing at least three short stories and many more started but never finished.

    All this is important. I follow mostly writers, journals, and publishers on Facebook. I like a nice mix of online and off in my writing life.

    Reply
  4. I love the companionship of writing along with others, sitting next to a friend or colleague in a coffee shop and knowing that we are pulling together in the same direction.
    But I also love being part of an online writing group. We have a little bet: You put in $20 to join. Each month, you write 5/7 days per week, at least 400 words. If you meet your goal, you get your $20 back. If you miss a day, you lose $3, and if you miss 2, you lose $6; and if you miss more than 2, you forfeit your $20 to the kitty. We divvy up the $20 among those who met their goals. It’s a lot of fun to cheer each other on, even if we are working on vastly different projects.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *