Recently, a friend of mine told me that I need to work on making writer friends because “writer friends will help push you past your limitations”. This is, truly, a lovely thought; however, I found that through the years writer friends come and go and rarely am I able to find a niche. This is partially my fault as I move… a lot… but, I also do not use the resources around me. As such, in attempt to take my friend’s advice, I made it my mission this month to see how to go about finding writer friends.
The search has been interesting. There are a lot of writers out there who claim that writing is a solitary endeavor and therefore perfectly okay to do it by themselves. I agree, to an extent. Writing is largely a singular activity, but sometimes you want the feedback and the support that comes from people that have been there and done that… you know, the cheerleaders on your sidelines.
What I found is there are three ways to interact with other writers: online communities, local writer groups, and writing classes.
For the purpose of this blog, I peeked into a couple of online forums. Among them included the forum for Writer’s Digest, the Absolute Write forum, and the Writers Beat forum. Truly, there are some great people that participate in these forums. There were sections that allowed writers to upload their completed work for analysis. There were sections to complain about the publishing industry. There were sections to talk about the lack of support in your regular life. Unfortunately, also threading their way through these forums were some very angry, sarcastic, and even downright mean people.
I am, by no means, saying that these horrid individuals were in the majority. In fact, I only stumbled on these kind of posts (replies, usually) a couple of times. But when I did, boyo! They were brutal. I do not tell you this to discourage your participation, I tell you this as a warning, that if you decide to participate, on occasion you might find yourself up against meanness.
I also realized that what one gets out of a forum community is proportional to what one puts into it, but isn’t that how friendships usually works? Doing a little more research, it appears that the overwhelming consensus is that if you take time to utilize these forums (participate, participate, participate), you will meet people that can turn into writing friends outside the forum space.
Writer Groups and Writing Classes
The second and third avenues are ones that I have a little more experience with as I have participated in both several times through the years. Two things are the same for writing groups and classes as with online communities: beware the trolls, and what you put in is what you get out.
Without the anonymity of the internet, trolls are not quite so prominent in writing groups and classes; however, there are times that your writing (and sometimes you) feel under attack. Dealing with this is one of the biggest obstacles of participating.
Usually writing groups and classes are critique based, which can be brutal to the self-esteem. When I taught beginning writers I constantly told my students that every single person can write. Can’t spell? Have horrible grammar? Not able to articulate your thoughts? All these things can be taught. Unfortunately, sometimes other writers do not think this is the case and criticism, especially for a new writer, and can turn that newbie away from their creative endeavor.
Do not let that happen.
If you venture out of your shell to join a writers group or participate in a class, remember that there will be criticism, but look at how it is delivered. Do the members tear each other apart, leaving a blood trail out the door, or do they both criticize and praise in the same breath? All writers have something they can improve upon, it is how that critique is delivered that is key to whether or not you want to stay with the group. Look for a supportive group, and be supportive in turn, and these experiences can lead to friendships.
After writing all of this, I confess I am terrible at developing and maintaining writing friendships. I have online friends and old school chums that I do not interact with nearly as much as I ought to. It is always hard for us solitary types to create bonds with other solitary types, but when that bond occurs it truly is a beneficial thing.
So, how about you? What is your advice? Do you have go to methods for creating writer friends? Expectations and requirements? Let me know. I would love to add your suggestions to my arsenal.