What is a writing community and how can you build one?
Adapted from a 2015 post on creating a writing exchange.
At the Center, we use the word community a lot. We have a clear if general idea of what community means to us: writers writing “together”—in our online courses, at our retreats, in comments on our social media posts, in response to our prompts (through the monthly photo prompt contests or One Year of Weekly Writing Prompts), or with us directly in private writing guidance sessions.
You are part of our community if you’re reading this post!
But maybe you want more. Maybe you’re just starting out, or just returning to writing, like so many we know, after years of devotion to family or careers in other fields. Maybe your creativity is finally sparking, and you find yourself in need of making connections with other creatives, other writers. Or maybe you’ve been a dedicated writer for years but are always seeking kindred spirits.
Here are five ways—some free and some that require an investment—to start building, or building on, a community around your writing practice:
Start with one other person.
Do you know even one other writer, online or “in real life”? Do you know someone who, like you, is interested in writing but isn’t sure where to start? Find one. The relationships we form are all based around common interests; if you garden, for example, you probably have friends with whom you talk about gardening. If you write, having a writing friend is paramount. That person will keep you going when you want to give up, build you up when you feel you’ve lost your muse, gently ground you when your ego gets too big, and remind you, with their own fabulous words, that a talented writer values your opinion and is committed to your art. Think of this person as the equivalent of your workout buddy.
How: To help identify your first or next writing bestie, make a list of people (online and “in real life”) with whom you might like to try to exchange work. Reach out to them. Link them to this post and say, “I want to start something like this. Would you be willing to exchange one new piece of writing with me at the beginning of each week, with the understanding that we will comment on each other’s work by the end of the week?”
Take a class.
There are, ahem, LOADS of online writing courses available to you through the internet. If you want to make a reasonable investment in your writing and the process of building your writing community, register for one. Whether it’s with the Center or not, you are guaranteed to meet other writers. Once you do, your community may begin to flourish on its own, or you may need to pick a fellow student with whom you’ve established a good rapport and revisit step one.
How: Google, find a class that sounds interesting, and register! It should go without saying, but offering genuine and generous feedback on your new writing friends’ work is an important part of community building. Practice putting out into the writing world what you hope to get back from it.
Join or start a writing group.
While not all writing groups have a professional writer at the helm to facilitate conversation and offer expert guidance, such groups are usually 1) free, and 2) comprised of people motivated enough to meet on a regular basis, committed enough to writing to set goals and provide feedback to one another. They might be part writing group and part book club, and that’s ok, too—good readers make good writers, and if nothing else, you’re communing with people who love words.
How: Put out a call on social media to see if any such groups exist in your area and/or to gauge interest among your local creatives for starting one.
Start a blog.
Want to reach other writers through your own writing without spending a dime or even leaving your home? Become a blogger! Blogging gives you a platform for outreach and can be a kind of home base for your writing practice, but it’s also a place where other writers can find you on their own. You don’t have to write about writing (a blog can be about literally anything), but imagine how many just-like-you writers you might attract through sharing your journey of building a writing community…
How: Read our post on the whys and hows of starting a blog.
Seek an editor or private teacher.
Of course, you can access a teacher by taking an online or in-person writing class, or an editor by submitting and publishing your work. But if you’re just starting out, these options might not be immediately available to you. Instead, you might research, for example, the Center’s private writing guidance services or editorial services through other organizations. You can actually hire working writers, teachers, and editors to evaluate your work and help guide you in the direction of other opportunities that would be a good fit for you. You might also look for writing conferences, seminars, and readings in your area to drop in on and meet some of these professionals face to face.
How: Become more familiar with literary goings-on in your area to make live connections with professional writers. Google private writing and editing services to learn how you could “hire,” if you’re able, a writer to work with—someone who can help you strengthen your writing and identify other possibilities for connection and community.
Which of these steps was or will be most helpful to you in developing your writing community? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: 5 tips for sharing your writing for the first time
Want to receive tips and inspiration like this in your inbox every Sunday morning? Subscribe to our email list! And when you do, not only will you get a year’s worth of weekly writing prompts as a FREE download, but you’ll be eligible to participate in our monthly photo prompt contest for a chance to share an original piece of writing with our community of over 1,100 subscribers!