By Pamela Nowak
In the twenty years I’ve been writing (well… writing with publication as a goal), there are two things that I’ve come to learn are vital: learning craft and being in community. Since many of us often talk about craft in our blogs, I thought I’d talk about community and how important it is to the writer.
Writing is a solitary task. We sit down at our keyboards and immerse ourselves in the worlds within our minds. We write in our pajamas, our hair a mess, not seeing anyone all day long. At times, we emerge from a muse-inspired streak amazed that hours have passed. Sometimes, we tweet or update our Facebook status to brag about our frenzied, pajama adventure.
But we’re still alone.
Oh, but when we get a Like or a Comment or someone tweets back, something happens—a gooey warmth because we realize we aren’t alone in our solitary task.
When it comes down to it, those times when we discover others do exactly the same thing, we feel a sense of belonging that buoys us up and gets us through those times when we get discouraged by the writers’ block and the rejection letters and the editors who are making insane demands of us.
This incredible sense that I am not alone is one of the things that has made RMFW my family.
And who can’t use more family, right? (Well, as long as they don’t interrupt the muse!)
Family, though, is more than being part of a community. It means being “in” community together, interacting.
Interacting?! Talking to people? People you don’t know? (Reader sticks head in sand).
Small steps can get you there and bring you the surprise of your life!
For me, the first step was joining a critique group. I got lucky the first time out. I discovered a genre-specific group I fit with well, one I could learn from, one in which I felt comfortable laying myself bare. When that group moved too far away from me (I lived in Wyoming at the time), it took a bit more effort to find a group that felt right. Several of us created a private on-line group and I joined a multi-genre group. Throughout those early years, I learned far more than I ever imagined was possible about craft and made friendships that nurtured me and allowed me to grow as a writer and a person.
I also began attending conference…standing in the corner looking on mustering every bit of my energy just to avoid fleeing to my room. It took several years for me to venture out of the corner and interact but I spent those early years learning craft. But every year, I knew more people and discovered that the time with them provided me with a boost that inspired months of writing.
Still, it was my move to the Denver metro area that really allowed me to discover the meaning of community. Someone asked me to help with the editor/agent critiques for conference. A few months later, I was recruited to chair conference. I was fully, completely, in community. Nearly six years later, I still volunteer for several conference committees and serve on the RMFW Board. I also serve on committees for another writers’ group, WWW. Being involved has allowed me to get to know so many of my fellow writers, to be part of a family with them, to become a bigger person.
So…to the point of my rambling…
If you’re writing but still feeling that constant isolation, still expending lots of energy at conferences and feeling lonely while you’re there, I invite you to be in community with other writers. Join a critique group if you haven’t done so and allow yourself to develop friendships with your critique partners. Let those friendships stretch beyond your monthly meetings. Attend monthly education events and talk to the person sitting next to you. Go to conference and step outside your social box. Spend time getting to know other writers. You have something in common to talk about, after all. Volunteer. It doesn’t have to be for anything big. Even small tasks make you part of the bigger family and bring you in to contact with other writers. Again, you already have something in common.
You’ll discover that we are all introverts that write in isolation but that we can thrive in discovering others who share our same hopes, dreams, fears, and struggles. And, once we share, we grow stronger and increase our energy until it becomes a big snowball. And who doesn’t like snowballs?
The first steps toward being part of community may be difficult but they are so worth it.
Pamela Nowak writes historical romance set in the American West. In addition to widespread critical acclaim, her books have won multiple national awards. In love with history and rich characters for most of her life, Pam has a B.A. in history, has taught prison inmates, managed the Fort Yuma National Historic Site and run a homeless shelter. She was named the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year in 2010, chaired three conferences, and now serves as president. Pam and her life partner Ken live in Denver. Their combined families include six daughters and several grand-children. Together, they parent two dogs and a cat.