Being a writer without a community is like being writer who doesn’t read. Since it’s different for every writer, I’m going to discuss how beneficial being in a writing community has been for me as a student and novice writer.
I was not introduced to a writing community until I joined First Friday Wordsmiths in college, and I was actually strong-armed into joining by a friend of mine. At first, I was intimidated. I was afraid to share my work because I had received bad feedback in the past—not bad as in critical, but feedback that didn’t help me as a writer. I think a lot of novice writers feel this way. They feel that their work isn’t good enough or the feedback they get is going to be harshly negative and hurtful, but this is a myth.
One of the most important things about being a writer is your audience. Being part of a writing community is like being part of the sharpest most critical audience you’ll ever have. (I mean this in a positive way.) My friends, acquaintances, colleagues, fellow students, and everyone who is part of my writing community have helped me to improve my writing. It may be that they just let me read it out loud to them, or that they give me critical feedback that teaches me new things about my craft. No matter what they do, it still helps me move forward.
The best example of this is a writers’ retreat that I went on two years ago. I was surrounded by writers I was comfortable with and, as a part of an exercise, I started to write about my grandfather. I thought when I wrote it that it would just be something I wrote for an exercise and never touch again, but when the people in my small writing community read it, they saw potential in it. Eventually it went on to be published in Blotterature literary magazine.
I encourage anyone who wants to move forward and improve their writing skills to join a writing community. There are many different writing communities, and you need to choose which one is right for you. The benefits far outweigh the fear of failure.