I’ve recently been focused on mental health, and since I write all the time, how mental health relates to—and sometimes hinders—writing. While I’ve discussed many methods I use to maintain productivity and focus (and will be doing so again in a workshop on June 12), and ways to repackage and reevaluate my goals to keep my outlook positive, one thing I haven’t talked much about is community.
Writing is most often a solo pursuit. Unless you’re working with a co-author, writers spend a lot of time engaged in the solitary activity of translating thoughts into words. (And even if you do work with a co-author, your process still might involve a lot of independent writing.) Writers can spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and revising without input from anyone else—let alone input from colleagues who understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or how to do it better.
Without that outside input—without a community of other people who “get” it—writing can be very lonely.
Which is one reason I rely on and love creative writing communities. (And, okay, may be one reason I wind up running far too many of them, too.)
While the big communities of hundreds of people can be great for pooling resources and finding out what’s going on in publishing or best practices for querying, self-publishing, or any other writing topic, it’s easy to get lost in all those posts and walk away with knowledge but no connection. So, the type of community I think is most helpful from a writing and mental health perspective is a small community in which you’re expected to get to know and interact with other writers on a more personal level.
The community that’s been the best for me is my local, in-person writing group Central Florida Inklings. Pre-pandemic, we met once a week at Starbucks for two to three hours of writing. Being in person and having a flexible routine meant there was a lot of cross-chatter and friendship. During the pandemic, we switched to an online format, which thinned our ranks a bit as some writers need the in-person push and others had to increase their self-care, but it also allowed me to increase the number of weekly meetings. We currently have four regular meeting times with sporadic others, providing consistent check-ins with other writers.
We talk about our current writing (and publishing) struggles, assist with brainstorming, and offer much needed support and confidence boosting. Being around and having access to other people who understand how it feels when I can’t get a sentence right, or who can offer a new resource for inspiration helps keep me writing on tough days. And having that nearly daily writing session set up in advance? There’s no question about when I’ll write because I need to show up for my community.
We had an in-person gathering last month, which was the first time we’ve been together since last August. Being face to face with these writers and friends eased my heart and bolstered my mental health. We, uh, didn’t actually do much writing, but being with my community again helped in a different way, and the next time we’re together, I’m sure we’ll all write more.
If you’ve been struggling to write in isolation—or if you’ve been moderately successful but are not yet where you want to be—I recommend finding a writing group. You can check out the big communities on Facebook or Twitter and see who you gel with, or just look around your writer friends and see if you can pull together a support group. Whatever you do, find some writer friends! It just might change your writing life. (I know it changed mine.)
If you haven’t seen it elsewhere, I started a podcast! My writing partner KL! and I are hosting a podcast about writing and inspiration called Story Kernels. In each episode, we take a writing prompt and develop it into a story, walking you through the process of creation (and working in collaboration). New episodes upload on Thursdays throughout the summer.
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