About a month ago, I wrote about why authors need a writing community. In that post, I said I’d share how I created my own because I know the prospect can be terrifying. I know this because I’ve experienced it (still do, sometimes). Because I am – drumroll, please – socially challenged. So socially challenged. I have social anxiety, and it results in an endless amount of awkwardness. So today, I’m sharing what I did to create my writing community in hopes that it might help you create your own writing community, fellow awkward friend.
Step One: Reach out to one person.
Creating your own writing community starts with one small, yet brave step: reaching out to one person. That’s it. That’s all you have to do at first. (And ever, really, if you choose to.) Yes, it is intimidating. And yes, you might need some time to figure out how and who you’ll reach out to. But trust me, taking this step will move you forward…
So, how? And to who?
Social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the most popular forums for authors at the moment. And following other authors will give you insight to their experiences and allow you to figure out who might be a suitable victim friend. I’d suggest finding someone you have something in common with. For example, I found the first member of my writing community, Jenni Fletcher, on Twitter after getting my publishing contract. She’d got hers shortly before I did with the same publisher, so I knew we’d have that in common. After freaking out slightly, I sent her a Twitter message and we exchanged email addresses. Now, we’re the best of friends.
Though this was scary for me, the positive outweighed the negative. Jenni has been indispensable through my publishing journey, and I’ve never regretted contacting her. So, take a deep breath and reach out to just one person. And then, once you’ve recovered from that, move on to Step Two.
Step Two: Join an online forum.
When I started writing, I joined social media platforms, followed people I thought I should, and joined all the online writing groups. It was overwhelming. I was terrified of sending out tweets, and I couldn’t imagine posting a question (or answering one!) in an online forum. For months, I just hovered, observing, learning, until there was a Twitter pitch competition that forced me out of my comfort zone.
This taught me two things: 1) it’s okay to just observe and learn; and 2) when you do interact, it’s okay to only do it in spaces where you feel comfortable. There’s an immense benefit in being in spaces where people are writing and experiencing writing challenges. However, you have to be fiercely protective of your mental health in these spaces. People generally tend to craft an online presence that is overwhelmingly positive. (The wonderful Kate Clayborn has written about this on Twitter.) So, weigh up the positives and the negatives. If you’re feeling alone and need to know people are facing the same challenges you are, go online. If you’re feeling intimidated or anxious, remove yourself from that space or give yourself some time to recover.
And for the more daring crowd…
Step Three: Join a writing organisation.
This step generally entails meeting people in person, so if you’re ready for that, you should absolutely join a writing organisation. It took me some time, but after I joined the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa last year, I met people who have firmly established themselves as part of my writing community. As a bonus, the organisation’s events have taught me so much about the industry, and have given me invaluable guidance in my career.
The most important thing though, is to remember that while finding your own writing community is important, making sure you’re ready for these steps are, too. And when you are, come find me here, on Twitter or on Facebook, so that I can cheer you on ?