by Eric James Miller
Writing can be a solitary, even isolating endeavor. Carving out a set amount of time per day (or week) to write isn’t always easy and feeling “inspired” to write during that precious time is a gamble any casino odds-maker would bet against.
Plus, let’s face it, writers can be a prickly bunch.
Most of the time we just want to be left alone.
But a writer waiting around for inspiration to strike is idle folly. I know that I’ve been guilty of using the slightest excuse for not keeping my butt in the chair and hitting my daily word count goal. We all have our rituals and pet-peeves that we wrestle with as we struggle with our doubts and insecurities to get those pretty words on a page. Letting anyone into our sanctified, creative little worlds is a big deal.
Sometimes, to make progress we need to force ourselves out of our shells and find comfort in community.
It’s a hurdle every new writer must face. It’s a hurdle that can prove daunting even for seasoned pros.
One of the changes this fragmented, modern age has brought about is that if you’re a writer looking for a little compassion, a little support, advice, or yes, honest, constructive criticism, you may not find it at your local library, coffee shop or in your local Meetup group. However, there’s a real good chance that with a little digging, you’ll be able to find a robust and active online community of writers that not only has similar interests and goals as yours, but one that also synchronizes well with your particular (sometimes prickly?) personality.
If you’ve been to a writers conference or event that you connected with, even if it’s out of state and not near where you live, look to see who sponsored it. Many times they are sponsored, or at least co-sponsored by one or more writers groups. Shoot the organizer or contact person an email. Ask to join. If there’s a membership fee, ask if they offer a trial membership. Check it out. Give it a try. If you don’t like it, stick with it but start looking for a different group. Try not to quit one group until you’ve found another.
Writers of Southern Nevada has been a effective, though behind the scenes organization here in Las Vegas for the past three years. We have sponsored a writing conferences each year since 2011, one on memoir writing, one on the business of non-fiction and last year’s very robust two-day fiction writing conference at the Plaza. This year the WSN is changing it’s corporate bylaws and becoming a membership based organization (more on that coming soon!). Aside from sponsoring local author meet and greets, thematic readings, and co-sponsoring writer-friendly events with other organizations in Clark County, we’re inviting guest bloggers onto this blog to share their advice, thoughts on writing or the writer’s life. By expanding its presence and reach on the internet, the WSN is seeking to enhance, enrich and work collectively to bring attention to the local writing community.
As a big fan and supporter of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I also personally recommend a small contingent core of writers from that conference that I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago. Aaron Brown and Chris Mandeville formed Delve Writing [http://www.delvewriting.com/] to help writers set realistic goals for themselves. They have established a versatile, interactive framework for not feeling alone and you don’t even have to live in Colorado to benefit from joining their group. Delve Writing, like many other online groups of writers helping other writers, is worth looking at whether you’re searching for inspiration, accountability, or how-to advice.
Another great resource is the Goodreads author program. [http://www.goodreads.com/author/program] There are over 100,000 authors that contribute to this forum in varying degrees. Fish around on the blog, the monthly newsletter archives and the Featured Author Groups, or be proactive and create your own author group if you can’t find what you’re looking for. You’ll be amazed at what you find and in a group that large you might even tip your hat to serendipity, because you may find something you didn’t even know you were looking for.
Another good group is the Google Group APE: Authors, Publishers, Entrepreneurs which centers around the eponymous principles outlined by Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch, Barry Eisler and others. You’ll need a GMail account to get started, but it’s worth setting one up even if it’s just to check it out. (note: please don’t ask me about Chrome!)
There are literally thousands of virtual writing groups online, and by virtue of Skype, You Tube, instant messaging and other handy electronic social media touch points, it’s easy to find one (or two!) groups that will probably work for you.
Gone are the days of writing in isolation, sending your unedited manuscript to a stranger in New York and having them turn you into a literary superstar. Newsflash: those “old days” only exist in myth and legend anyway. (Sorry J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac — I love your books, but role models for success you ain’t!
The beauty of this electronic interweb we’re all connected to is that if you’re willing to look for something, you can probably find it.
But, choosing to participate is the first step and it’s purely up to you.
If you want to engage with other writers, interact with readers and reading communities, share your voice, learn and grow with other people that share the same interests as you, online writing communities want you!
They just leave it up to you to find them. As Lao Tzu said, “Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Louis L’Amour, the prolific writer of westerns, said it even better “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning. ”
As a writer, who do you turn to when a new question, one you didn’t anticipate or think of before, pops up? If you can answer that in five seconds or less you are fortunate. If not, you may want to consider searching for and participating in an online writing community that’s right for you.
(Eric James Miller works as a freelance journalist in Las Vegas and is the President of Writers of Southern Nevada. He is the author of “The Metaphysics of Nudity” and the For Rent Mystery Series. Book 1 in the series, “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise” was released in 2013 and is available in bookstores and various online retailers. Book 2, “For Rent: Haunted Neon” is due out later in 2014.)