Writing is a supposedly solitary endeavor, but successful authors know that a supporting writing community is worth its weight in gold. Like-minded colleagues keep you aloft during the long, parched weeks of revision. They’re friendly allies when you need an outside eye on your story or writing. They’re seasoned repositories of first-hand publishing and marketing expertise.
Your writing tribe gives you and your work something impossible to find within the confines of your own head: perspective.
Your presence here on my website is a clear sign you’re ready to open your creative doors to a broader range of ideas, perspectives, knowledge, and support. That’s why I’ve invited Jenna Avery, founder of the Called to Write writers community, to outline why there’s no better time than now to find a like-minded group of writing colleagues to share your journey on the path to publication and the life of a writer.
Don’t Write Alone: Top 10 reasons to join a writing community
By Jenna Avery
As a writer, you’re on a hero’s journey, embarking on a quest to fulfill your call to write, overcoming procrastination and perfectionism, vanquishing criticism and resistance, and navigating the treacherous waters of overwhelm, finally triumphing in a final push to finish and publish and get your book out into the world—and then doing it all over again with the next book, your next quest.
Any hero worth their salt knows they need both mentors and allies along the way. Harry Potter had Dumbledore—and Hermione and Ron. Frodo had Gandalf—and Sam and the Fellowship of the Ring. Luke had Obi Wan—and also Han and Leia. When a hero faces a challenge, they turn to experts and mentors for wisdom and guidance, sure, but they lean on friends and allies.
As writers, we need friends and allies to lean on in the form of a writing community.
As writers, we need friends and allies to lean on in the form of a writing community, in addition the team of editors, story coaches, publishers, agents, managers, and producers we rely on for expertise—our Dumbledores and Obi Wans. We also need our friends, allies, peers, and colleagues too—our Sams, Hermiones, and Han Solos.
If ever you’ve doubted the value of finding a community of writers to connect with, here are ten top reasons to look for one of your own.
1. Have support to fulfill your calling.
As the founder of a website and community named Called to Write, I firmly believe in following your inner calling to put words on the page and share your work (and yourself) with the world. I also know how hard it can be to do so on your own. Part of my inspiration for founding Called to Write was for selfish reasons: Like many writers, I needed and wanted a place to support fulfilling my own calling, and I wanted to bring others along with me. Some of my earliest and most favorite clients were writers who wanted to start writing or had fallen off track with their writing. So we created a guilt-free writing zone where we could work together and make it happen.
2. End writers’ isolation.
Writing can be a lonely business. There’s lots of time alone, with notebooks or keyboards, staring into space, working away in the wee hours. Sure, we can write in coffee shops (outside the pandemic), but it’s not the same as having actual coworkers or coconspirators in on the challenges and jokes and around for water cooler chats about the boss. Attending writing conferences, joining critique groups, hanging out on writer Twitter, and taking writing classes are all ways of connecting with other writers, but there’s something magical that happens when you join a daily writing community and get to be with your people, day in and day out.
3. Normalize the writing experience.
Hearing from other writers … makes it easier to celebrate accomplishments and commiserate around challenges, knowing that it’s all part of the process.
All writers—including the pros—have ups and downs. Even knowing that, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only writer in the world struggling with self-doubt, wrestling with deadlines, plodding through revisions, getting thrown off by life, or just plain old falling into the pit of despair from time to time.
Hearing from other writers in an authentic, honest community where everyone shares the highs and the lows makes it easier to celebrate accomplishments and commiserate around challenges, knowing that it’s all part of the process. This, in turn, normalizes your experience and helping you realize you’re just like other writers (and again, not alone). It’s easier to remember that you can finish and get your book out there—just like other writers in your community—when you’ve experienced every step of their journey to get there.
Why not you too?
4. Draw on a brain trust.
When you’re part of a writing community, you’ll have an alliance of writers at your disposal to ask questions and turn to for advice. Seeds of inspiration and solutions for all manner of writerly challenges can be found in a simple remark from a fellow writer who’s faced a similar situation or can readily share the information, experience, or connections you need.
5. Develop a solid, regular writing practice.
Writing in community is an excellent way to build a consistent writing practice. When everyone around you is writing, writing, writing, it’s much easier to build and sustain your own momentum, particularly if you write together during group writing sessions.
In my Called to Write community, we run multiple daily writing sprints where we gather online and cheer for each other as we write. The regular action and shared energy, commitment, and excitement helps us strengthen and solidify our daily writing practice, which makes it so much easier to make the work of writing actually happen.
6. Gain a network of peers and colleagues.
As you build real relationships with other writers, by supporting each other through the ups and downs of writing life, you’ll gain a network of peers and colleagues who support you in your writing efforts. Natural friendships form, which can lead to finding critique partners, allies for difficult moments, and potential help making connections with agents, publishers, managers, and producers in the future. It’s a natural by-product of coming to know, like, and trust each other in a positive, supportive writing environment.
7. Create accountability for writing.
A nifty aspect of social accountability is how it helps you keep your promises to yourself in a way you might not do on your own.
Social accountability is a powerful tool for writers, including those working toward self-created deadlines and writers striving to meet external publishing deadlines, particularly those who want to meet those deadline in a sustainable, measured way (as opposed to a mad, exhausting binge of writing on the verge of an impending deadline).
Sharing your writing goals and tracking your progress inside a safe, supportive, guilt-free community can help you stay motivated to see the work through, day by day, week by week, month by month. Building a writing career is a long-term game after all.
A nifty aspect of social accountability is how it helps you keep your promises to yourself in a way you might not do on your own. Let’s face it, when you’re writing in isolation, it’s so much easier give up and clean the toilet instead when no one will notice if you write or not. When you’re with other writers who are waiting to hear how it’s going? You’re going to write.
8. Receive feedback on your work.
Some writing communities focus on giving feedback and critiques. This is an extremely valuable way to grow as a writer, and being a part of a critique group with high standards for quality, actionable feedback can be inspiring, educational, and relieving all at once. Sometimes we know there’s something not working in a story, but we don’t know how to fix it. Getting feedback can be just the ticket.
Related: Why you need a critique partner or group and how to find one
9. Recover from feedback (or rejection).
On the other hand, sometimes feedback is difficult, and writers find themselves needing a place to “get back on the horse” after receiving challenging feedback, guidance to majorly revise, or manuscript rejections. This is partly why we’ve chosen to have my Called to Write community be a critique-free zone. We know that writers can be sensitive, thoughtful beings, and need positive, supportive space to heal, build resilience, and get back to writing after external discouragement, disappointment, or frustration.
This is not to say that feedback is not valuable, but it also recognizes that it can be painful, feel like a setback, or require digging deep to get to the next level of elevation with your writing. Being with other writers without need for critique can be an opportunity to have the space you need to focus and recover. Some writers find they benefit from participating in both types of communities.
10. Be witnessed and seen as a writer.
One of the most powerful ways to feel like a writer is to act like one.
One of the most powerful ways to feel like a writer is to act like one, by writing consistently and continuing to show up to do the hard work, every day. Another way is to be witnessed and seen as a writer by the people around you. Particularly if you’re working a day job and writing, or parenting and writing, or all three, it’s validating and encouraging to carve out a small piece of the world where you’re known primarily as a writer. Not as a mom or a boss or a server or what have you, but as the creator you are called to be.
Joining a community of fellow writers is a way of being “witnessed back into wholeness,” as one of my early mentors used to say. We need to be seen, heard, felt, acknowledged, and witnessed for being who we are, and other writers are just the people to see us that way.
Joining a writing community may feel a bit daunting at first, but it can be one of the most empowering choices you make as a writer. There’s nothing like having the support of peers and colleagues on this journey. Whether you seek out an in-person writing group, connect with writers in groups on social media, create a group yourself, or join my Called to Write community, I hope you’ll give yourself the gift of a writing community.
Jenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist for Final Draft and Script Mag, instructor for Script University and The Writer’s Store, and story consultant. As a storyteller, Jenna specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, an online community and coaching program designed to help writers make the work of writing actually happen, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and out into the world where it belongs. Jenna lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two sons, and writes about writing, creativity, and calling at CalledtoWrite.com.
Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list. Find Jenna online at JennaAvery.com, CalledtoWrite.com, the Called to Write Community, and on Twitter at @JennaAvery.
Want more advice like this? Sign up for Baker’s Dozen, 13 things for your writing, fresh out of the editorial oven every month.
If you’re looking for an editor to accelerate your journey from new writer to emerging author, that editor could be me. Let’s work together via story coaching to maximize your story’s potential, or let’s polish the finished product with story (developmental) and line editing. Let’s talk.