by Camela Thompson
My dog has a funny quirk. Her ingrained hatred for squirrels doesn't make her unusual. She runs around the house barking her head off and charging windows. Plenty of dogs do that. What makes her odd is that she gets so frenzied that she retreats to a dark bathroom and puts herself in a time out. An hour will go by before I open the door and find her napping on the rug. In all of my years in the company of dogs, she is the only one I've met who elects to go into sensory depravation after a good freak out.
My gremlin is weird. It's why it works.
Sometimes emotions run too high and it's best to walk away for a while. After all of the terrible things on the news, I did something similar. I turned off social media as much as possible and hid in my house this weekend. I focused on my book. Creative arts are healing and I often turn to writing or painting when faced with emotional pain. But even an introvert needs a community. The one exception to my shut-in weekend was a meet up with some fellow authors, and it helped remind me that there are some pretty awesome people in this world.
Michael G. Munz and Tiffany Pitts are as hilarious
on paper as they are in person. Respect the lightsabers.
I've said it many times: Writing seems like a solitary activity, but a community is needed for a book to come to life. Other writers know what it's like to spend hundreds of hours on a project only to face criticism and rejection. External critique is bad enough, but many of us fight insecurities about our work that make the worst reviews look tame. I'm lucky enough to have found friends through workshops, classes, meet ups, and a publisher. We encourage one another, share expertise, and whine a bit, but we each have strengths that compliment someone else in the group. Some of us know a little about social media or technology, some of us are good at pitching, and others aren't chickens about talking to people in person. The biggest benefit is the encouragement we give and receive because it can mean the difference between someone giving up and continuing.
Here are a few of the places I've been fortunate enough to meet people in the writing community:
This is a pretty obvious suggestion, but I specifically recommend signing up for interactive sessions. Even if you aren't pitching, sign up for a pitch building workshop and help another author hone their pitch. Volunteer to listen to people's log lines and offer constructive critique. Always bring business cards (there are affordable options online). Exchange them with people in your area who seem like a good fit for your group. Hand out cards to people who write in your genre and start networking.
Community College Classes
Even if you have an MBA, continuing education classes have a lot to offer. While you may know everything about grammar and story structure, there are other topics such as marketing for authors (even traditionally published folks can benefit from this). My favorite class runs through NaNoWriMo and keeps participants motivated to keep up their word count and finish their project. I've met some of my favorite people in community college classes.
Local writers' associations and specialized schools hold workshops that focus on specialized skills. Some authors even offer retreats. Keep an eye out for an opportunity to get away for a weekend and focus on your craft.
A lot of writers participate in Twitter chats, Facebook groups, and other interactive social media platforms. I knew quite a few people online well before I met them in person. Typically I was connected with the writer in some other way (publisher, friend of a friend, etc.), but social media provides a wonderful way to network for those of us who are introverted.
Every time I meet up with another writer for drinks or to talk, I'm reminded how lucky I am. It's amazing how many authors are willing to give their time and share their expertise.
Do you have a writing community? Where did you find your group?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.