On writing and community

Despite all of you, and the friendships I’ve developed through blogging, I still have occasion to feel lonely in this writing world. I’ve reached a place where I want to work on the quality of my writing, and how I express myself through words, in a meaningful and rich way.

I write a lot professionally, and certainly get more than my share of feedback for that. But the writing I want to work on improving is far different from that. I want to write words that fuel and enrich me, that offers an outlet to explore all of my nooks and crannies.

There are things I’m doing to keep moving along. I’m practicing and writing about different things and in different ways, in this space and in others. Of course, I’m reading books and blogs and articles. Reading is as important as breathing to me. I’m doing online courses to help realize my dreams and develop my ability to think inwardly and harvest those explorations. Next week I’m excited to attend a memoir writing workshop at Kripalu with Dani Shapiro.

All of this helps. But…

I would like to be a part of a community of writers who meet regularly to discuss inspiration, critique each other’s work and provide encouragement.

The problem is, at the moment, my time is pretty tapped out and I have to be discriminating about commitments outside of work and family for now. At the same time, I would imagine that most opportunities to connect with other writer’s would involve trekking into Ottawa. I live in a rural community just 30 minutes out of the city, with an already very long commute each day, I don’t relish the idea of more driving.  Despite having lived where I do for my entire life, I’m not familiar with any writing communities close by.

When I took the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab we discussed the importance of finding one’s tribe, and connecting with like-minded people. I’m convinced it’s a vital component of happiness. I’m also convinced that these tribes are an important part of helping us achieve our goals. We’re human, we need each other.

So I’m a bit stumped and writing out loud, wondering if there is some way to this virtually.  And it occurred, why not ask the experts? You! You come here, you read my words, you write words of your own, you are an important part of my community.

What I’m hoping for is a community of writer’s who can share ideas and converse about words. I want to write and share my stories with an openness for feedback that will help my skill set grow and expand my writing perspective. I want to be challenged beyond what I do for myself through my writing on this blog. But most of all I want to learn, and to share, and to come together with a common purpose. I want to be able to do it for others too.

If any of you would be interested in joining me, or have ideas on how it could work, please let me know in the comments. I’ll come up with a format and send it out to participants to see if we can pull something formal together.


18 thoughts on “On writing and community

  1. I love this idea. The past couple of years I have looked for a writing community in my area. There must be some way to do this…what about skype? What kind of writing ? Are you thinking about writing a book? In 2009 I did the National Writing Month Novel writing challenge…and was looking for others nearby to talk about writing.

  2. I think it could be done electronically. I’ve been in a conventional small writer’s group and we sent out our work to each other via email then got together once a month to critique, discuss. I see no reason why that discussion couldn’t happen via electronic means. For example, what if every person in the group sends a point form critique back to each author, copying other group members (because some of the greatest lessons come from what others say about work that is not always your own), and then at a set time each month there could be a group conversation – either through Twitter or a yahoo group idea?

    Anyway, I’d be interested in giving it a shot. I never seem to have fiction writing time these days but would like to. A writing group does sort of hold you accountable to have written something:)

    • I agree with Denise. I’ve also been a part of a small writing group where we submit our work electronically a week before we meet. We critique via the following rubric: a) A summary of what the reader believes the piece is about; 2) List strengths of the work (i.e. character, descriptions, plot, and voice, etc.); 3) List opportunities that can be taken (if something does not work, what it is and how the reader would approach it) and 4) End with a positive conclusion regarding the work. It has worked for us so far. The feedback has definitely helped me.

      I am definitely interested in participating too. Just need to create working guidelines to set it up. Thanks for paving the way Christine!

  3. Justine says:

    While I’ve never participated myself, I tend to agree with Denise and Rudri that forming an online writers’ group would be just as effective. I think it’s wonderful that you’re disciplined about your writing and you’re seeking the support of your community. I can’t wait to read your memoir. And your trip to Kripalu with Dani Shapiro? I’m so jealous! Enjoy my friend.

  4. MamaRobinJ says:

    I participate in The Red Dress Club (reddressclub.blogspot.com) which is a virtual writers’ community. They offer two prompts per week – one memoir and one other (which could be fiction). Then you have an opportunity to link up and see others’ take on the prompt and get constructive criticism on yours. Worth taking a look at. It’s a great community, both on the site and on Twitter (#trdc).

    • Christine says:

      I’ve had a look at their site, and it certainly interests me, though I was hoping for something more intimate. However, I have to admit, I think writing from a prompt is a great way to work on one’s writing flexibility.

  5. There are certainly good workshops available online. (You might put the question out on twitter – and use tags for writers.)

    More than 10 years ago I participated in an online workshop or two in writing – incredibly satisfying, and very much workable around family, job, etc. That’s the beauty of the online world – certainly easier to maneuver now than a decade ago.

  6. Chantal says:

    I would think an online would work just as good as meeting face to face. And you have the bonus of not having the stress of being away from kids, up late, weather… stuff like that.

  7. denise says:

    Oh Lady. Kindred are we. I’ve been brainstorming about this VERY thing–I kid you not. I’ve been wondering about creating an on-line critique society of sorts–a place where writers would come together to share, inspire and help each other improve.

    I’d love getting positive feedback on my posts, of course, but when it could be improved in some way that I’m missing….oh would I love to receive some constructive criticism.

    I know that the Red Dress Club provides meme prompts, and I’ve seen on other’s blogs that participants really provide constructive feedback. But maybe a destination site would be nice, where writers could post work for comment….

    Let’s brainstorm lady. xoxo (ps–see you in one week!!)

    • Christine says:

      Yes! Let’s! I’m hoping for something more intimate than the Red Dress Club, something that can grow between a smaller group of individuals over time. I need help with process and motivation.

      Less than a week now. I can hardly wait.

  8. We’re so often on the same wavelength! I am writing about this subject matter soon as well. I have mixed feelings about it, because I’ve been involved in several writing goods (online and in person) and not one of them have been a good experience. One-on-one partnerships have been great, but groups…not productive. At least not for me. I understand the need for accountability and connection, however. Definitely.

    • Christine says:

      Accountability is a huge part of it. And motivation. But I also think, if you can find yourself in a circle that works, that it can help with perspective. I think as writers, we can sometimes get caught in a vacuum.

      I really appreciated your post Amy.

  9. Cathy says:

    I like how the Red Dress Club has paired up writers. I was still to chicken at the time, but in a smaller venue, might be worthwhile. I am definitely interested.

  10. […] a plan. A system for productivity. Something to keep me on track. Christine at Coffees and Commutes wrote last week about the isolating nature of long-term writing projects and the need to find a writ…. And I agree…in concept. It helps immensely to have others to whom you’re accountable, […]

  11. wesleyjeanne says:

    A GREAT book to get is Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider (link: http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Alone-Others-Pat-Schneider/dp/019516573X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1304343701&sr=8-1)

    Not only is she hugely inspirational but she gives great writing exercises and has a whole long section on building community and starting a writing group–with lots of practical advice. It really doesn’t address online groups but I would think that some of the advice would work just as well. Plus the whole book is a wonderful motivator and her tone is very supportive and gentle.

    Is there a bookstore in your community? Closer by? I live in a rural town about an hour from the next major city but we do have a bookstore and a coffeeshop where an in-person writing group could take place.

    One of the things Ms. Schneider stresses is about keeping a safe space for writing. I think that’s crucial. Online it can get a little too easy to overly criticize others, so be careful to select a group that is supportive rather than critical. And don’t be afraid to leave a group that doesn’t feel right to you.

    I have been thinking a lot lately about creating a writing group for myself, too. Since I stopped writing in my main blog last year (I still keep a short “joy list” blog) I have been feeling more isolated in my writing and in need of community. Please let us know what happens with this.

    Also, I wanted to say “wow!” and “kudos” on the Dani Shapiro class. That is wonderful that you get to do that!

  12. […]  mentioned in last week’s post On Writing and Community, I’m trying a variety of approaches to help improve and inspire my writing. I am a writer by […]

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