After I graduated from Bowling Green State University with my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I prowled the streets of my hometown desperate to find fellow writers in my community.
In the newspaper (people read those back then), I found an advertisement about a writing group. It met at the local library twice a month. Immediately, I called the number and found out what days and times. The man was welcoming and eager to have a new member.
When I went to the public library for the first meeting, I was ecstatic. I was finally going to rejoin with a group of fellow writers who shared each other’s love of language and story. In college, I had had workshops, deadlines, readings—a nurturing, artistic environment. When it all suddenly stopped, I felt adrift, almost depressed. But, here, I had found this group!
I looked around and around at the various tables, and there, in the back of the library, were my two people.
The woman was probably in her early 70’s and she wrote lyrical poetry with a staunch rhyme scheme and all the “thees” and “thous” she could muster. She firmly believed that all love stories should focus on “beautiful people” because “nobody wants to read a romance about ugly people.” I’ll never forget that.
The man hovered in his early 50’s and he wrote stories about middle-aged male protagonists struggling with marriage and sex, sort of a blend of American Beauty and just about any Michael Douglas movie. I’ll never forget that either.
And, then, there was me—a 24-year-old who wrote literary stories that teetered on purple prose.
This was my writing community.
Eventually, the group dwindled down to just the man and me. His critiques were helpful, and I learned a few things, but this was not the robust group of people starving and bleeding for their craft that my young imagination had hoped to find.
Being a part of a good writing community is necessary for every writer, regardless of his or her abilities, publication record, or education level. As previous posts have mentioned, writing groups provide with us networking, the chance to “break bread” with fellow artists, and the opportunity to have our work read and critiqued by peers.
We should never take a strong writing community for granted.
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to C. S. Lewis: “We read to know we’re not alone.”
Isn’t it ironic that writers sit alone in front of typewriters and blank computer screens only to reach through space and time to let another person feel less alone?
Writing groups, likewise, let writers know we’re not alone. We may tell our stories in solitude, but it is always with the hopes of that story being read.
As Stephen King tells us: “Write with the door closed, and rewrite with the door open.”
Open up the door and join the IWC at one of its many reading and writing events!
Doing so may just give you a good story to tell.