While writing is very much an “in your head” activity, writers benefit from having a community to hold them accountable, provide support, and challenge them to improve. Of course, first you have to find that community! There are options for finding the right community: find an existing one or build your own.
What to Look For in a Good Writing Community
Whether you’re planning to build your own community or join one, it’s good to know what a good writing community looks like. In general, communities are only as good as the connection between their members and the commitment to a common goal. For a writing community, that means supportive relationships, honesty, and celebration in a space conducive to the shared goal of connecting with other writers.
Community members do not need to be friends, but they do need to be friendly. They need to be prepared to be sympathetic and supportive and know they are in an environment that encourages connection. The implicit assumption behind all interactions is that each party comes from a place of good intent.
When there is a good rapport within a community, honesty closely follows. A good writing community is a safe space to test ideas and first drafts. Not all ideas are good, and no first drafts are perfect. There is a great deal of reassurance in knowing there is a place to collect honest feedback that will prevent future embarrassment.
Positive reinforcement is incredibly motivating! A good community is eager to celebrate others’ achievements. It’s a critical part of the whole feedback process that will encourage greater member engagement. Positive connection, ftw!
When a community is full of friendly, supportive people, it’s easy to slip into being a purely social group rather than a writing group. The best writing communities focus their conversations on common goals; social chatter must be contained in its own time or space. Like Idowu Koyenikan said, “Where your attention goes, your time goes.” A writing’s group time should be at least 80% about writing, and 20% about everything else.
There is plenty of advice on the web encouraging writers to create a dedicated space where they will focus on writing. Having a dedicated virtual space outside big social media platforms is just as important. While it is possible to curate a Twitter feed or Instagram follow list, the ability to focus becomes enormously challenging when the app itself is designed to grab your attention and have you keep scrolling.
Building the Community
Now you know the characteristics of a good writing community, but how will you build one if there isn’t one available or appropriate to your needs? Keeping in mind the characteristics you’re aiming for, here are four steps to building that community.
Find your people
To build a community, the first step is finding people to be a part of it. Here are a few ideas:
- Post a flyer in your local library announcing a new writing group
- Reach out to your friends and ask them to help spread the word to others that might be interested
- Post on the appropriate social media channel (Instagram is great for connecting with creative writers; LinkedIn is better for technical and business writers)
Agree to goals
As a community, you’ll collectively need to agree to your goals. Does the group want to focus on accountability, asking others to help meet goals and deadlines? Or perhaps the group prefers to focus on becoming better writers, sharing tips and feedback. There is no wrong answer to what goals you choose. The critical part is choosing one or more goals to give the group a shared understanding of what they can expect.
Establish a community hub
Once you’ve found your people and agree to what you’re collectively striving for, you must ensure you all know where you will be convening. These meetings might happen via a weekly video conference, a room in the local library, a Facebook group, or some other dedicated platform.
You have your people, your goals, and your place – now it’s time to make the engagement a habit. In order to do that, you and the other community members need to engage consistently.
Establishing rapport, building a culture of honest feedback, and celebrating wins are community-building fundamentals.
If you know of others that might enjoy being part of a community designed to support writers, please send them here to The Writer’s Comfort Zone!