“I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all."
- Stephen King
In Stephen King’s memoir 'On Writing', he reminds writers of the fire we face daily as we endeavor to write and create. Not only do we have to contend with our own self-doubt, but we also have to face those who continue to impugn our ambitions as a writer. It's inevitable that we will find ourselves feeling that we simply cannot go on writing and some will abandon writing altogether.
As a new writer, I have also experienced the pains associated with the story that has sat in my mind and cultivated my heart. After having read Stick With It, a book that explores the science behind lasting behavior, I discovered that there was a key point made in this book that could help on this writing journey: the importance of belonging to a community where, “...social support and competition fuel change and keep us accountable.”
A community is most commonly defined as a group of people with shared characteristics. These characteristics can range from having the same beliefs or shared financial status, but for our purposes, the shared interest would be in writing a book and a love for books. Online writing communities have much value and can help the struggling writer find the needed confidence to move forward. Below is a small list of why every writer should consider joining, and actively participating, in a writing community.
In a writing community you will find others who face the same struggles
Prior to writing one of the most beloved American children's novel The Wizard of Oz, author L. Frank Baum wondered whether he was even capable of writing a great novel as mentioned in his personal writings. Having already published a few novels and poems, L. Frank Buam was not pleased with his work and struggled to believe that he was actually a good writer. In fact, L. Frank Baum felt “like a literary imposter”, comparing himself to others who had achieved academic success. Despite evidence to the contrary, Baum questioned the adequacy of his writing skills.
It's hard to imagine that someone who went on to write The Wizard of Oz ever had these feelings. He, like most authors, spent a great deal of time with his creative thoughts, the characters he so well knew, the words he would use to convey the imaginary world he was creating, and yet no amount of progress could have kept him from feeling like an imposter. In fact, imposter syndrome can and will hit many writers. What does this look like? The milestones we reach in our writing journey will be ignored after a while only for us to downplay them. Then if things couldn't get any worse, we begin to support this belief; we sit terrified with our projects knowing that others will see through us and think our work is not good enough to see the light of day.
Alone with these feelings you might not be able to push through to continue writing.
In writing communities, you will find others who feel like this.
In a community you will hear about others and find that you are not alone in these struggles. You might not at the moment have the courage to share these feelings, but there will no doubt be others who courageously post that they have felt the exact same way and have overcome these emotions. These posts will help you get to know other writers on the same journey and their projects. Then one day you will find that very post with a quote, anecdote, or even an aphorism that will speak to your soul. That one!! That's it!! You will decide that you actually aren't a bad writer after all. Much like L. Frank Baum, by staying connected and talking about these thoughts you too will be motivated to continue to work on your novel with confidence and who knows maybe find the same success as The Wizard of Oz.
In a writing community you will learn that you are not alone.
Writing can be a very lonely journey. In a community you can begin to build a network of friends among writers. It is these fellow writers who will welcome you in and remind you that they too are on the same journey. It's important to note that there are many wonderful online writing communities. It's your choice of the platform you will use, but make sure that wherever you decide to go that it is a community where you can benefit as well as help others.
Did you hear that Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism?
Helen Keller's short story The Frost King was compared to Margaret Canby’s Frost Fairies. An agonizing investigation for Keller ensued. Both stories were published side by side in the local newsletter and a committee was formed to decide if Keller in fact plagiarized. Keller was not believed and many questioned whether Keller actually confessed when asked if someone had read Frost fairies to her as a child and she said, “yes”. Keller was distraught and had developed a fear when writing stating , “...the thought that what I wrote might not be absolutely my own tormented me”, but Helen Keller was not alone. Although it took place many years after, Mark Twain wrote in her defense, “For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources from a million outside sources.”
In Mark Twain Helen found a friend who understood her and her plight. He decided he would defend her. Have you found that person or group of people who will support you? The writing community will give you this opportunity. Join one!! Let's overcome loneliness.
In a writing community you will learn from other writers
Here are just a few things you I have taken away from joining The Writer Community:
Tips on what (POVs) work for certain genres.
What a trope is and the different types of character tropes.
Tips from mainstream published authors that other writers have found useful - I learned online that Neil Gaiman can pretty much connect all the dots and give a backstory to any and all his characters.
Advice on the self publishing industry
What writing sprints are and how to join them.
Tips on which writing craft books to read :no doubt Save the Cat will be added to your TBR list.
Fantasy all things Fantasy !! World building,the use of magic,the struggle for mastery and lots more fun stuff even if it's not your preferred genre.
In a writing community you might find a life-long friend that will challenge you, walk alongside you, and motivate you.
One classic illustration of this can be seen through the formation of the Inklings. No one can really say where the origin of the group named the Inklings began, but most would say that the friendship between authors Clive Staples Lewis (C.S Lewis) and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (J. R. R. Tolkien) is what made this group remarkable. Through the inklings, the friendship flourished and eventually it is through this friendship that the world was able to enjoy the beautiful works created by both authors. The group would meet regularly. Initially they got together to read Islandic sagas, but the group would evolve into much more. The authors would sit around and read each other's work and spend long hours discussing anything to do with writing and creating.
C.S Lewis wrote a letter to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves on how much he enjoyed his friendship with Tolkien and how much this friendship allowed him to discuss writing; describing one such meeting as a “long, satisfying talk”. He further shares in another letter that Tolkein shared his, “...voluminous unpublished metrical romances and of the maps, companions to them, showing the mountains of Dread and Nargothrond the city of the Orcs”.
This is amazing! This is exactly what a writer community is about! How wonderful to know that much like Tolkien you are able to share maps from your fantasy project with another member and that it might turn into such a great thing!
In regards to the profound effect the friendship with Lewis had on Tolkien, Tolkien states, “The unpayable debt I owe to (Lewis) was not influence as it is ordinarily understood but sheer encouragement....he was for long my only audience...only from him did I ever get the idea that my stuff could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion.”
So what are you waiting for? Join a writing community and make friends.
Meet Carolina SouthLuv
Carolina's love of books started at a very young age with Beverly Cleary’s series Ramona Quimby. As she got older, she developed a love of all things mystery. Agatha Christie, Anne Cleeves, and Georges Simenon are just some of her favorite authors. It is through these novels that she decided to write her own tale of murder and woe. She is currently writing her first mystery novel and working hard at baking cute creative desserts that her main character endeavors to make. Carolina resides in sunny California with her husband of 18 years and three children. When she is not writing, you can find her sunbathing in one of the beautiful surrounding beaches with her family, reading a book, or in the aisles of the local library.
You can connect with her on Instagram @carolinasouthluv