Back when I was editing Writer’s Digest magazine, I published several variations of this advice, oft repeated by contributing writers, original source unknown:
In surrounding yourself with a writing community, aim to include three types of writers: Those who are on your level, those who are where you would like to one day be, and those who are just starting out behind you.
I firmly take this approach to heart, in part because I believe so strongly in the power of community as not something that you find and join, but something that you build, both online and off, one relationship, group, membership, event, workshop, communication, or accomplishment at a time.
The three prongs are key.
Why? Particularly when it comes to the otherwise solitary and sometimes oddly unique craft and business of writing and publishing, the peers working at the same stage we are—whether that’s submitting for the first time, looking for a new agent, publishing a debut, building a freelance portfolio, and on—become important sounding boards and sources of information. They can share invaluable opportunities and leads, make introductions, keep us sane.
Those who are trekking uphill behind us give us an equally important sense of paying it forward as others no doubt have done for us—and remind us, too, of how far we’ve come when we’re feeling discouraged.
And those forging ahead? Well, they show us what’s possible. And you might find them surprisingly generous, too.
Together, they all keep us hungry and inspired.
When it comes to the writing life today more than ever:
Bird by Bird is not just about words on the page.
This is why I’m so excited, honored and proud to be joining the Career Authors team—which is to say, the Career Authors community. Make no mistake, if you’re reading this, you’re a part of it too: We are here for you, you are here for us, we are all better and stronger together.
That we shouldn’t, needn’t, walk this road alone is the sort of thing that might seem like it goes without saying—but I find that it bears repeating. That we can all use reminders, gut checks, checkpoints from time to time, particularly when we’ve been immersed in a big writing project and are coming up for air.
Sometimes the reminder comes in the form of a generous act from a writer friend sharing a kind word about our work. Or in the warm feeling that floods us at that conference we almost got too busy to attend. Or, perhaps, in a post like this.
In the care and feeding of your own personal writing community, I’d invite you to:
- If you haven’t already connected with each of us on the Career Authors team on social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, wherever you are—please do so now. We love to hear from you.
<> Brian Andrews: Twitter @lexicalforge Facebook @BrianAndrewsAuthor
<> Hank Phillippi Ryan: Twitter @HankPRyan Facebook @HankPhillippiRyanAuthor Insta @hankpryan<> Paula Munier: Twitter @PaulaSMunier Facebook @AuthorPaulaMunier Insta @paulasmunier<> Jessica Strawser: Twitter @jessicastrawser, Facebook @jessicastrawserauthor, Insta @jessicastrawserauthor<> Dana Isaacson: Insta @larscrawfo
- Use the Career Authors pages (Twitter @careerauthors, Facebook @careerauthors, Instagram coming soon @careerauthors) as welcoming spaces to interact with each other in and beyond the comments threads. Add a little note, even if just to say hi; respond to someone else’s; share a post you like and invite a friend to join the discussion here. When you recognize the same names participating again and again, new relationships can form. And who among us does not relish what a beautiful thing a troll-free forum can be?
- Read something small, every day, that makes you feel like a writer. Whether it’s this blog, a page of Writer’s Digest, a word-a-day email, a poem, anything. If it helps you, take an extra 30 seconds to post or comment or tweet telling the author so. Magic will happen. Try it and see.
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