The Magic of Writing Communities

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No cheating today. No short stories, no guest post. I actually have to write something this time. Which would be a lot easier if I had spent a moment considering what specifically to blog about today. Sure, it’s supposed to be a writing-related so that gives me a general direction but that’s about it. I’ve promised in the past to plan my posts in advance but that is still a work in progress – very slow work.

Much like my outline. I spent so long excitedly waiting to finish the second draft and get back to outlining. I’m still excited, but the process is painfully slow. I’m on the SECOND step of a ten-ish step plan, and remember I want this to be finished by July. Here’s what makes it really frustrating; I’m doing everything right. I’m putting the proper amount of effort and attention into everything, and the work itself is reasonably good. Therein lies the problem; I am doing everything I’m supposed to do and still moving at snail-speed. Which is the correct speed! If I start hurrying, I’ll miss things and end up right back where I started; a shit draft that needs total bulldozing and rebuilding. All I can do is keep going slow and steady and doing things right. Despite being an impatient person, I’ve accepted that.

But it’s still really fucking slow. And as I live in this state of being right on schedule and yet incredibly frustrated, do you know what helps? My writing community. I know, I know. I’ve talked about writing communities before. A few times. But I want to do it again, hopefully better than I have in the past. And I want to encourage all writers anywhere in the world to try and find your version of communities like these, because trust me; it makes all the difference. Even for a cynical, human-loathing creature like me, a writing community is vital.

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I’ve talked before about the Prague Writer’s Group, where every Saturday any writer can show up at a communal work space and just sit and write together. We don’t talk, we don’t share our work, we don’t ask for notes, we just sit quietly and work. It’s really motivating to see a lot of people working hard around you – makes you want to do the same. Just seeing someone else tapping away at their keyboard makes it feel almost shameful that you’re not doing the same, so you get your ass working.

The regular Writer’s Group people are great, too. We go to lunch together and the conversation feeds my creative energy and makes me want to get even more work done, which is amazing for someone so talented at procrastinating.

I got lucky; when I decided to take writing seriously, I googled “Prague writing group” and the website of this was the first thing to pop up. It was already established, years in the making, and welcomed me in with open arms after my very first email. Other people might not be so lucky; a group for writers to just work together might not exist in your area. Here’s the thing; there is a very good chance there are still other writers in your community who would be interested in it. It’s just that no one has brought them together yet.

If you want a Writer’s Group like the one we have in Prague, there is nothing stopping you from creating one. Start a Facebook group, hang flyers in bookshops, reach out to places you think you might find interested parties and get those writers together! It’s not just great for your productivity to work around other writers, but writing is mostly solitary work. When you’re all working side by side, it’s almost like having colleagues. You’re all creating different things, but you’re doing it together.

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Then there’s my Critique Group. Four critique partners who share 3000 new words of our WIPs every week and meet to talk about it every Wednesday. It’s one of the best things ever, seriously. If the Saturday group gives me charges of creative energy, the critique group is a freaking nuclear creative bomb. On a good day, we inspire each other and motivate each other to keep working; on a bad day we all get to bitch about how hard writing is and find comfort in our shared misery. Win-win.

This critique group was born out of the Writer’s Group. They have a regular critique group every other Saturday where anyone can show and submit as long as they read everyone’s submission beforehand. That’s definitely a way to do it if you want to open the doors to everyone who’s interested, but personally I found it too disorganized. People came and went and sometimes didn’t read all the submissions and it was hard to submit pieces of a novel because new people wouldn’t get the context. I need more structure, stability. So we decided to create a couple of smaller, closed groups for the people like me. That’s how our critique group was made. We all preferred this regular, structured set-up with a reasonable word count and where everyone submits one project at a time, from beginning to end.

I would recommend both these kinds of set-ups depending on who you are and how you work. Either way, letting other people read your writing can be scary as all hell. But you gotta do it if you want to get anywhere with your writing. It’s up to you if the first time you share something is on your blog, or when you send your novel to beta-readers, or if you get some feedback before sending your baby out into the world. Critique groups are a great space for getting feedback on a smaller scale; it’s good for your writing and as a way of warming up to the idea of sharing your work with others. 

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Finally we’ve got writer friends. People you hang out with any time, any where, who are just your friends like any other friends except for one important distinction; they are writers, too. Which means you can talk about writing, anything relating to your writing, discuss weird research you just did on how to stab someone in the heart or interrupt any conversation by going OH MY GAWD THAT HAPPENS IN MY BOOK and having it all be totally normal. With writer friends, spending three hours at a café just sitting with your separate notebooks and getting work done while chatting is your way of hanging out. It’s amazing.

Friends are pretty magical no matter what, but there is a certain kind of joy and closeness to be had when you share something really fundamental. Being a writer isn’t something you do on the side of your regular life, that you spend some time on every summer and then don’t think about the rest of the year. Being a writer is something you are deep down in your soul. It influences the way you see the world, the way you feel things, the way you interact with people, the way you hear music and view art and feel the wind through your fingers when you walk. Sure, there are different kinds of writers just like there are different kinds of people, and we won’t all work or think the same way. But no matter your differences, writer friends will always get it, without you having to explain or make excuses.

Best of all; writer friends are easier to find than critique groups and writer’s groups thanks to the wonders of modern society. Twitter, tumblr, blogs, forums – hell, NaNoWriMo actively brings writers together several times a year. All you need to do is run into the madhouse that is the internet and you are guaranteed to find writer friends. Just reach out, send them an email or a message and you can be sure that at least some of them will reach back, because they want this just as much as you. Or, you know, go hang around bookshops and talk to people carrying notebooks until you make a writer best friend in real life.

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And on that note, allow me to add something before I go; that thing about everything being different with writer friends? That obviously applies to other things, too. Having fundamental things in common is a wonderful thing. That’s why a brilliant friend and myself decided to fill a certain gap in the Prague writer’s community. We’ve started the Queer Creators Collective in Prague. We’re hoping to bring together queer writers in Prague, and our first meeting is tomorrow. So if you’re interested, or you know someone who might be, please check us out our Facebook page and come on down to our meeting tomorrow! I believe we’ve still got some seats left at our reserved table. We’ve also got a very pretty sign to help you spot us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a novel to outline.
Rain S.
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