Welcome back to part two of four on “writing with a day job,” or writing for busy people. Whether you’ve got a non-creative or creative fulltime gig, you’re a freelancer seeking to make a living while working on your novels, or a parent with a novelists’ dream, you’ve come to the right place. Two weeks ago, I talked about redefining productivity as a busy writer. Today, I want to touch on a vital aspect of being a writer, regardless of life stage: finding your people.
Admittedly, this is a struggle for me. I was fortunate to be a part of a fantastic group of fellow young writers in high school (through the One Year Adventure Novel community), and even wrote a novel inspired by my experiences in that group. However, since growing apart from that community, I’ve struggled to find a group where I can get solid advice and feedback. I have a couple of OYAN friends to this day, but I’ve also been seeking more opportunities to get involved with other creatives. Last August, two creative friends of mine (a graphic designer and a musician) banded together to form our own group of Christian creatives, and that’s been an exciting and soul-nurturing venture so far. I’m also currently a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Both of these groups have been fulfilling, but different from OYAN, and sometimes I feel like a creative outcast as I long for those old OYAN days. But if being a military brat destined to move every few years taught me anything, it’s that building community takes courage, patience, and persistence. So—let that be in the back of your mind as I share some possible ways to make connections in this digital age.
1) Look into national & local groups: As I just mentioned, I am a part of some writing/creative groups. OYAN is national, though geared largely towards high school or early college students. SCBWI is also national, though focused on kids lit (which includes young adult!). There are other groups out there too, pretty much one for every genre. I’m considering joining Realm Makers in the near future (a national organization for Christian fantasy and sci-fi writers), but want to wait until I’m more engaged in the fantasy space. (Whitman Court is technically fantasy, but very lightly, so SCBWI has been a better fit for that project.)
Before you join a group, though, make sure you research it. Most require some sort of membership fee, so be sure to check what that fee gives you access to and whether it’s worth the cost. Consider your goals and current writing stage. Will this group help you progress in your current season? Does it speak to a genre or type of writing you want to pursue? Answering those questions will help you decide if it’s worth it or not. Writing organizations also typically give you access to an online forum or to region-specific groups, which gives you access to networking and critique partners. Conference discounts are also a nice bonus (and a way to network as well!). Keep in mind that not all regions will have equal opportunities. From personal experience, there seem to be more writers—and thus more opportunities—in Austin, Texas than in the Oklahoma City area.
You also may have access to local groups (unaffiliated with national organizations), too! Perhaps a critique group meets at your local library or bookstore or coffee shop. Or maybe you, like me and my friends, need to think about starting your own local gathering of writers or artists.
2) Social media: I kinda hate social media. I’m only on Instagram because it’s the only one I find fun, but it’s still hard for me. I often feel more awkward engaging on Instagram than I do in person, and that’s saying a lot. Yet I also recognize that social media can be a vessel for community. I’ve seen many of my writing pals find their people through Bookstagram or other social channels. Social media has opened up a whole new place for writers and creators of all kind to find a supportive community. Since I’ve recognized that, I’m trying to be better at engaging on social media and put out content that is meaningful and helpful to other writers. It’s definitely outside of my comfort zone, but it’s yet another communal space I want to be brave in.
My advice for those who are similarly fish out of water on social media? Just find people who inspire you and cheer them on. Engage with them. Don’t expect reciprocal engagement. Make content that is authentic and that you enjoy. And if it’s too much for you, take a break and don’t stress. This shouldn’t consume your life, but if it is important to you, schedule time into your week to work on it. Social media is a perhaps unfortunate necessity of building a creative career these days, but there are other ways to find community out there.
3) Be brave in initiating: Courage is an overarching theme of this particular post, but I think it deserves its own bullet point too. Community won’t happen passively to you—you have to put into it to also get something out of it. Writers aren’t going to magically appear in your life, you have to find them. Taking risks, even socially, is part of the game. (And this is coming from someone who struggles with social anxiety and talking to others about my writing!)
You need courage to attend that local or national conference. You need courage to sign up for a critique day. You need courage to post a question on that organization’s writing forum. You need courage to start a local group of artists to share your work and discuss great art. These are all things I myself have had to muster up courage for and dive into. We have to start, be persistent, and be patient in pursuing our writing community. It’s such an important part of the writer’s life! So let’s all be brave and put ourselves out there together, shall we?
As busy writers, we may be tempted to dismiss finding our people as a luxury we can’t afford, but it is truly a necessity. It’s worth putting some of our precious time into pursuing community. We need other writers to learn from, to be our accountability partners, to help us strengthen our own stories, and to encourage us to persevere when it gets hard.I pray that you find your people and have the courage to seek them out. And, by the way, if you’re a young adult or kids lit fantasy writer, reach out to me! I’d love to connect and am always open to offer critique or a readers’ opinion on works-in-progress.
Stay tuned for part three in two weeks—I’ll be sharing some thoughts on wise rest, because all even the busiest of writers needs to take a Sabbath.