Friday, April 2, 2021

Find Your Writing Community


by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

Writing is a solitary career. Sure, you can participate in critique groups and collaborative projects, but when it comes right down to actually putting words on a page, we write alone. That’s why one of the most important elements of a successful writing career is belonging to a writing community. 

 

It could be a writing community. It could be a faith community. A basket-weaving community. Whatever. Any sort of community usually always makes individuals better people, but along with the concept of community comes a problem: Communities are made up of people, and people are dumb. 

 

Being involved in a community is a challenge. It makes sense that it would be. Anything that helps us grow in maturity and wisdom requires effort and discomfort and sometimes sacrifice.

 

Community will stretch you in ways you may not feel ready for. You may have to speak up when you’d rather be quiet. You may have to listen to critique when you don’t think you need it. You may have to hold your tongue when you feel like you need to criticize. You may have to get personal, be vulnerable, and honest. 

 

Community is hard, but nothing that makes us better is easy.

 

So where do you find community? 

Where do you look? And, once you find someplace to plug in, how do you know that’s where you belong?

 

I’ll have you know that I am the poster child for square pegs. I have never fit in anywhere, not at church, not at school, not at work.

 

I tried too many times to get into groups of people who I thought would be advantageous. The result was always frustration because no matter how I tried to be like everyone else, I couldn’t. Often I didn’t share the same values, or my goals were so completely different that nobody else could relate. And expecting them to try didn’t seem feasible. 

 

It was discouraging, to say the least. I’d go to book clubs or writing groups or conferences and come back feeling more isolated than ever. I tried to change myself so I could be accepted. I tried to write stories that were better suited for those communities, but all those stories were in genres I didn’t read. And they were about topics that didn’t matter to me. It’s not that those other genres were bad or wrong or unimportant, but they didn’t have my heart. Have you ever tried to tell a story without your heart? It doesn’t work very well. 

 

I spent many years looking for a community that suited my needs, my goals, and my preferences, and you know what I found? 

 

It didn’t exist. 

 

That’s when I realized that I had been making community about me. I had been looking for a community to serve my needs and to support my work. I had never considered looking for a community where I could serve others.

 

I had only considered community with a consumer mentality, as though relationships were products on a store shelf displayed for casual browsing. Granted, that’s how our culture has trained us to see every aspect of life—through the lens of “what’s in it for me.”

 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to have a sense of like-mindedness in community. You have to have common ground. But if you are driven only by what you can get out of someone else, you’re going to have the wrong perspective.

 

Once I changed my mindset and focused on serving others instead of the other way around, community took on a whole new meaning for me. 


I became a better friend. I became a better coworker. I became a better writer. And then something I didn’t expect happened: A like-minded community began to form around me. I am so blessed to know these people, to be able to live life alongside them, to share their joys and their sorrows. I am blessed to be able to make them smile, to make them laugh, to bless them. And that’s what community is all about, because it’s not about me.

 

I’m still learning how to do this. I’m still trying to figure out how to make this work on social media and over email and live video. But if we all approached community with this mindset, we’d all be healthier.

 

Does that mean you can’t ask your community for help? Of course not. Sometimes engaging in your community means being open about your struggles, but if you only participate in your community to ask for help, how can you notice when someone else has a need?

 

Don’t ever, ever underestimate how wonderful it is to demonstrate to another person that you believe in them, that you support them, that you’ve got their back. It’s better than a five-star review.

 

If you want community in your life and in your career, don’t make it about you. 

Go where people are and be yourself. Listen. Serve. Love. The ones who share your values, who can relate to your goals, who have a similar vision will come to you. Start building there on a foundation of mutual respect, common courtesy, and basic friendship.

If you live like that, you’ll find community wherever you go. 

TWEETABLE

A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @ACW_Author.


6 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more! My critique partners and I have been together for 15 years. We all live in different parts of the country, so we try to meet up at writers conferences. But thank the Lord for email and the internet.

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  2. Such good advice. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Dallas Willard says something to the effect that you do not always need to have an agenda; you do not always need to get your way or be right! Be second! It frees you to bless beyond your boundaries.

    Thank you for your great perspective.

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  4. I like your perspective, A.C. Great post.

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  5. Excellent insight and encouragement!

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  6. What a beautiful reminder that when we focus on others the pieces begin to fall into place. Thank you for sharing your story.

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