In our last post, we explored the compelling and time-tested benefits of participating in community with our fellow writers. In today’s post, we’ll address how writers, no matter their location or proximity to other writers, can go about seeking that community.
If you live in a metropolitan area and/or a university town, chances are opportunities to connect face-to-face with your fellow writers abound! We’re talking informal writing groups, community writing classes such as those offered by Crafted Creative and writing workshops/seminars. A simple online search with the word “writers” and the name of your city or region should turn up many exciting results. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you have a polished work to share. You’re cheating yourself out of some of the best inspiration and feedback available to you if you isolate yourself until you’re “done” with your work in progress (WIP).
For those living in smaller towns or more suburban or rural settings, you may still be pleasantly surprised to find some established opportunities nearby. If not, why not take the initiative to start something on your own, a meet-up or regularly scheduled reading/feedback group?
In our super-connected modern world, only a few places on Earth remain where anyone can be truly isolated without the possibility of communication. If you’re reading this after all, you have access to the internet at the very least. While time spent in the physical presence of our fellow writers remains the most powerful and beneficial experience, we can also benefit greatly from communing with each other in other ways.
Of course, reading should not be forgotten on the list of non-face-to-face interactions that can take place between writers. Many writers find themselves feeling the presence of the author in the work, and perhaps more acutely than avid readers who are not themselves authors. Immersing ourselves in quality writing will always benefit us in multiple ways including sharpening our literary instincts, broadening our exposure to diverse vocabulary and writing techniques and whetting the appetites of our own muses.
As to more directly interacting with fellow writers, online writing communities have burgeoned since the late 90’s. These days, whether is a Facebook group for writers (of which there are many, whether general or specific to genre, gender, race or some other unifying characteristic) Scribophile.com , or one of the many other options available to internet connected writers, these virtual gathering places offer most all the same benefits of in-person connection including exposure, peer critique and inspiration.
College courses represent another option for joining a writing community. Undergrad creative writing classes and community college courses provide an array of enjoyable growth opportunities
Ready to get even more serious about your writing and join the community that represents the beating pulse of modern literature? Apply for a residential or at least partial residency, two year or longer MFA (master of fine arts) program in creative writing. You’ll likely have to choose between poetry, fiction or non-fiction, and you may have to select an even more specific focus.
Most creative writing MFA programs require that you already hold a bachelor’s degree of some type, and you’ll have a better chance of acceptance if you can demonstrate past success in your writing, either awards or publishing credits, though these may not be 100% necessary. Life experiences may work in your favor just as well if the program directors feel you have something enriching to bring to your fellow students.
Entering an MFA program represents a significant financial and time commitment. Not all applicants are accepted, and many very good writers find themselves rejected from their first-choice program or institution. Try to keep an open mind and be ready to apply to other programs, or reapply a different year if the program allows. You may need to adjust your expectations in order to find acceptance into an MFA program. Remember, many excellent and celebrated writers never earned an MFA.
Just a few important reminders before we close this entry. Just as all people are different, all communities differ. Any writers’ group or activity we take part in will necessarily be different from any other. Some groups focus on peer critique, others on developing stories and swapping inspiration. When you decide to try a group or activity, make sure you’re well aware of its main focus. Many online groups have important guidelines for your posting/commenting behavior within their group. Review any rules/guidelines that groups offer their participants. Be informed; be respectful, but don’t feel like you have to be intimidated. We’ll touch on that very last point more in part three of this post “Common Fears (Myths) About Writers’ Communities.”