Ask the Editors | How Do I Find Writing Community?

Rae Bryant with BooksOne of my workshop students, a talented, new in her craft writer, asked the question about writing community and how one finds a community in which to give and receive feedback when one has little means by which to secure it? This question brought me back to a time,  not so long ago, when I was right where she is now. I haven’t thought so intently on that feeling of new uncertainty for a good while. Uncertainty, for writers, seems to have many levels of progression. I am everyday certain I’ve discovered a new level of Dante’s Hell and Uncertainty in the Creative Craft. Traversing this very new step in “being the writer” is not so unlike Being John Malkovich. Here is what I could offer:

“It’s not easy. Those of us who have done it (with kids and little money, especially) have suffered in a number of ways due to it. I was born in a trailer park. I came from nothing. My parents spent what nest they were able to build in bankruptcy. I’m still paying off student loans. I had to work and scrape my way through it all, as have many writers. Literary isn’t easy for women, especially. A lot of boy’s clubs and setbacks, if you don’t play that game. But if you want it badly enough and you dedicate yourself to making it [the writing] happen, you can make it happen. It won’t be easy. You’ll get banged up a little. You’ll wish you had more money and time. It won’t be what you thought it was going to be. Sometimes you’ll wonder why you chose to dedicate yourself to such an isolating passion, because make no mistake, the craft of writing, when done well, will be isolating and sometimes painful. Those of us who do it, do it because we truly have no choice. The craft gets into you and you can’t see yourself doing anything else. Anything else will bore you to death and make life even more miserable than being a writer. All this said, I am thankful every day for narrative and stories. I am a more fully developed person and intellect for it. I believe narrative, fiction in particular, is the deepest form of human connectivity. We can have our most important conversations through our characters without beating each other over the head with a soapbox sort of agenda.

So, I guess this is to say, you have a lot on your plate and you are seeking writing community and are limited, as you describe, in how you can achieve it. Before going down this rabbit hole any further, see this thing called writing for what it is. Truly, you do have narrative voice that is worth dedicating yourself to and exploring further. And there is something to be said about pieces of writing that can’t be taught but must be found by each individual writer and you are already on this path. But decide whether it is the right path with both eyes open. Too many writers start with a doe-eyed view of what the ‘writer’s life’ is. And it is never that.” 

These words poured out of me so easily and with such cynicism. I never thought it possible, this cynicism. Wouldn’t it be interesting? A CT scan at the first moment when a writer identifies as being a writer and then years later the moment when a writer realizes how truly screwed he or she is. I would like to see these films on the light screen. And we’ve done this to ourselves. Whistling into our rabbit holes. What a lovely and dominating mistress. I did give the requisite advice on getting involved and seeking trusted writing groups and to always be grateful of any willing mentor to happen along. And all the while, I’m thinking, what a lovely and dominating mistress.


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Eckleburg is a print and online literary journal that offers original fiction, poetry, essays, music, art, writing workshops and more.

2 Replies to “Ask the Editors | How Do I Find Writing Community?”

  1. “Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real word does not give me. By writing I put order to the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and hunger. I write to record what others erase when I speak.” — Gloria Anzaldua

    I started keeping a journal when I was about 9 years old. And while my first entry was full of exclamation marks and hearts about some boy I had a crush on, my second entry (eight months later) said: “So many things have happened since December. I wish I could write about them all, but I can’t.” Hmm. Thankfully I have grown out of that state of mind.

    But at times I haven’t.

    Just a month ago I wrote in my notebook: “I don’t feel very important right now. Or at all, really. And it’s strange–if I don’t feel important, then I don’t feel like I have anything to say. That I’m in no position to share my story. What story do I really have to tell? Nothing. Nothing. How to stop this? As where my brain can’t think. How it feels completely gone. Just gone. I have ideas, but none of them feel worthy of putting into place.”

    That’s a bit depressing, but it raises a good question. How to stop this line of thought?

    Read. Write. Believe in the power of narrative. Keep going.

    Rae, I am thankful for these words you have now put out into the world: “I believe narrative, fiction in particular, is the deepest form of human connectivity.” While I concentrate more in nonfiction, I find that I feel more whole, more connected to the world when I tell a story (fiction or nonfiction), when I get out of my mind a thought that i’m trying to figure out. And then I share it with someone. Or sometimes I don’t. Sometimes just sharing the words with a page is all I need to feel connected.

    I have slowly started to build a writing community by just putting myself out there. I read other people’s work, and comment on them or email the author if something is lit inside of me because of their words. It’s interesting–I realized the other day that I have a good chunk of people who are very dear to me, and some of them I have never met in person. And none of them live in the same state as me. We are all writers, though. And that is how we form our connection: through words.

    Even just reading a book, an essay, a poem, hell, even someone’s insightful Facebook post puts me into conversation with someone else, allows my brain to enter into their thoughts and see what new thoughts I have when I close the covers, turn the page, scroll down.

    There are an infinite number of stories all around us, and I think our challenge is to grab at some, to reach out, to connect with other writers whether you know them personally or not, and to just keep going at it. You’re responsible for the effort, not the outcome. You write and connect, and things happen because of that.

    I leave you with another Gloria Anzaldua quote (this one hangs on the bookcase next to my desk): “Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire. Don’t let the pen banish you from yourself. Don’t let the ink coagulate in your pens. Don’t let the censor snuff out the spark, nor the gags muffle your voice. Put your shit on the paper.”

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