A common belief in society is that writing is a solitary profession; writers are meant to toil painfully at their desks in complete isolation, residing in lonely huts by the sea, with no one but a cat to relieve the solitude every once in a while. They only communicate with an invisible editor in the margins of their manuscript; occasionally, they may also need to crawl out of their shells to (gasp!) participate in some social interaction, but mostly, writers spend their time alone. However, this belief is far from the truth.
I pen these words days after attending a week-long virtual writing camp, participating in multiple workshops every day with many other young writers around the country I live in. Before I really became active in the writing community, I thought such a thing didn't exist. I was the only one who ever loved writing in my elementary school until it was an all-consuming passion, and whenever I sat down at my lunch table to scribble a new chapter of my novel, I was met with puzzled stares. As I grew older, I realised that there were many other budding writers out there who loved the craft as much as I did. The publishing industry is very much interconnected, especially in smaller countries or regions. Of course, when the writing community is big on networking, it may disadvantage young writers of diverse and marginalised backgrounds and fosters publishing “group-think”. But, a close-knit community can be a welcoming, inclusive support net for every creative.
Writing doesn’t have to be done “alone”, in a literal or figurative sense. In fact, it probably isn’t done alone most of the time. Take for example, this article: the title of this article states that it was written by me. However, this simple blog post couldn’t have been published without the contributions of many talented individuals. There needed to be an editor from Intersections Magazine to correct errors and find a relevant cover photo. There needed to be a social media and graphics team to create a social media post and promote the article on Intersections Magazine’s accounts. There were published articles on the internet, written by other writers, that allowed me to research on this topic. There were also people who ensured I was fed and hydrated so I had enough energy to write this piece — my family. Not to mention, you, the kind reader who clicked on this article, helped support Intersections Magazine’s work and ensure I can still come up with new posts for the blog. This is why the Acknowledgements sections of published books are lengthier than the longest Christmas wish list in the world: writers do have a lot of people to thank, and many of these people are in the writing community, or affiliated in some way.
Finding a writing community may not need to depend on your geographical location or pure luck. Sadly, I wasn’t born into a family of writers (to this day, I’m still the only one) and I didn't have a strong creative writing background in early childhood. I am also blessed and cursed with an extremely introverted personality. Interacting with other writers and forming connections doesn’t come naturally to me. I would rather lock myself in a room and scribble my heart out instead of deliberately putting myself into a writing community environment, such as a class or critique session. (I still have nightmares from being in a critique session.)
Perhaps one thing that has benefited introverted writers (including myself) greatly is the invention of the internet. It can be less daunting for writers to interact with others in the community through virtual means. I strongly encourage young writers to take little steps to form connections with other young writers. For example, I once read an article written by a young author and, finding her contact details on her website, emailed her comments on her article. I hardly expected that the next day, I would receive a reply, and that started an email exchange that has continued till now. Another time, I participated in a competition and learnt about another teen author’s work. I wrote another email to her and requested to interview her for a publication, and she accepted. Anything is possible, as long as you are willing to try.
Being part of the writing community doesn’t require a drastic personality change or magic spell. Most writers aren’t born to be social butterflies; what does matter is to be true to yourself, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. A quick Google search will allow you to see that there are many writing community platforms out there for you to interact with writers around the world via digital devices. These communities include NaNoWriMo, Scribophile and Underlined. For the social-media-savvy, search for popular writing-related hashtags or writing groups on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Discord, Slack and more. Invest in the craft by looking for courses or classes.
Though Covid-19 may hamper efforts to gather with other writers in-person, you can still approach writers in your local area. Maybe you find an avid writer in a friend, or a friend of a friend. You can check local libraries and bookstores for writing meet-ups and find opportunities to write for local publications. These publications are usually small and survive on the help of unpaid volunteers and willing submitters, so your contributions, whether creative or in any other form, will be especially appreciated! Plus, many large online communities often have regional-based groups that allow you to find writers near where you live.
Ultimately. giving is more fulfilling than receiving. Support other writers by liking and sharing their social media content or visiting their blogs and websites. If you come across a writer in need, whether planning to pitch a non-fiction book or just completing a school essay, don’t hesitate to give encouraging yet supportive feedback. Every writer learns and grows by knowing what works and what doesn’t. Besides, that allows you to practice your editing skills, and maybe you’ll even be able to recognise your own areas for improvement!