Writing, Like Reading, is a Solo Endeavor.

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I mean, it is. I know lots of people with day jobs as picture framers and teachers and professors at universities who go home, write about their experiences, and only write in that bubble. Separate from the writing world at large. People do that. Lots of people do that.

The act of touching keyboard or pen is definitely a solo endeavor. And if that’s all you want out of it, that’s all you need.

But even Malcolm X, in prison, didn’t write alone. He wrote in a group. The idea of an incarcerated man, sitting in a cell with a pencil and legal pad and a few books, plugging away at some idea, lost in a vacuum of solitary, and not solidarity, probably sits in a lot of people’s heads. There’s a stigma attached to writing. Google “writer,” look at the images. It’ll show you this stigma. One person. Alone in a room. With birds or some sparkly pixie dust floating out of his hipster typewriter. Usually male. Usually white. Usually synonymous with the idea of reading; casual, inspired, brilliant, freeing.

All the way bs.

Those people exist. No question about it. Super-cool looking dudes who write on their traveling luggage, or in a sparse room, between sips of ultra-smooth, non-burned beans coffee. It happens. And they write alone. Or perhaps are traveling groupies. Or perhaps are baristas at Starbucks in their junior year of college…

I’m one of them. I have very little writing community. I have friends who write, and we don’t talk about writing. I have family who support me, but they are not writers. Creative writing is so specific in its niche. And to tone it down to science fiction or fantasy? Even more niche’d. Not cliche’d. Niche’d.

This isn’t about me, although I want it to be. It’s about everyone else in the world.

Women also write. And non-white people. In fact, some write really well. And as part of this writing idea, a whole ton of people have a community to go to, when writing becomes solitary. And same with readers. Book clubs, writing/reading communities, conferences filled with interested, and interesting, people/writers/creativity.

It’s hard to lay a blanket statement on anyone, or anything. For example: writing is no longer restricted to specific groups of people anymore. Anyone can write; just know the language and have something to write on, and something to write with. Boom. Prepositions End Lives.

Communities, on the other hand, are different. Many of us who haven’t dug, or aren’t lucky enough to be involved with someone involved in this writing community system, see writing as (insert Google Search Here). The truth is I feel a lot of what makes writing happen–and I’m not referring to the act of pen to paper–comes from community, and support. I mean the draft/rewriting process, the critique process, the publishing process–online or otherwise–and the printing process all go through gatekeepers, people in the know, and people with business. The best way I’ve found to connect with those people is through community.

St. Louis, where I spent four years, had a phenomenal publisher’s association, SLPA, that worked hard to keep the community strong. Well-published authors and back-room writers alike lined the seats. Special guest speakers, writing pamphlets and books, and all sorts of people were available: artists for cover art, presses for physical copies, editors, distributors, and everything in-between.

More than that, you had a community.

I only attended twice; I worked a job that kept me out late on the night they gathered, and frankly I had no time to write anyway (because of said job). I stumbled, fumbled, and now that I’m in that place where community is important, I no longer reside there.

Writing usually isn’t like reading. It requires work, study, practice. I’m hesitant to say it also needs community, but those who don’t use it are missing out on some serious pros when it comes to, well, everything: insight, instruction, access, support. I’m an extroverted writer. I love people; I love writing. They aren’t exclusive. I recommend digging into your local writing communities, asking the local colleges for input, and find where you belong. Even if nobody agrees with, or likes your work (heh), you’ll find people willing to help, willing to share, willing to assist in your growth.

No man’s an island. Person. No person is an island.

(Also I recommend checking out some “local” online magazines of short stories. It’s a great way to find more of a community.) (Some examples I’ve been researching.)

Writing IS a solo effort, for some. Others? No. I don’t want it to be for me.

Hope you have a productive weekend!

Chris

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