The following article is the fourth in a five-part series of articles by Jennifer Haupt. In this installment, she discusses five strategies for finding a good balance between your vital alone time and the benefits of participating in a writing community.
Writing a book is, by necessity, a solitary undertaking. At the same time, building a tribe is essential. During the eleven years I worked on my first novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, I learned through trial and error that a striking a balance is key to creating a happy, sustainable writing life.
Here are five ways to balance alone time and tribe-building with a writing community:
1. Set aside daily alone time with your WIP.
If you sit down and write, the muse will show up. I find that designating at least an hour, first thing in the morning, to work on my WIP sets the tone for the entire day. That's when I am at my creative best. I know plenty of writers, however, who experience peak creativity in the evening, when the to-do list and family activities wind down. The key is consistency: the same place, the same time—every day.
2. Find your local tribe through writing workshops.
“Writing a book is a magical endeavor that’s also fraught with self-doubt,” says Jenna Blum, author of The Lost Family. “The only thing that makes it easier is the company of other writers. I’m hugely lucky to teach at Grub Street Writers, a Boston writing school that also functions as a community and life-support system for writers. So many of my dearest friends are Grubbies!”
3. Connect with other writers online.
There are lots of ways to connect with other writers online — from social media, to blogs such as Writer Unboxed and LitPark. Some writing centers, such as Grub Street and Hugo House in Seattle, offer online classes that include the opportunity to trade pages and critiques with other students and learn from a well-published teacher.
If you can’t find your tribe online, create your own — large or small. Bloom, a Facebook group for readers launched by The Tall Poppies Writers, has more than 3,000 members. On the other end of the scale, I belong to a private Facebook group of eight essay writers who have been meeting online and sometimes in-person for the past five years.
[Also, check out the Writer's Digest Community Discussion and Critique group on Facebook.]
4. Take a writing summer vacation.
Summer workshops such as Aspen Summer Words, Centrum, Writer's Digest conferences and Squaw Valley Writers Community are great creative respites. I’ve found the combination of workshopping pages of my WIP, alone-time for writing, and socializing at meals invaluable. The price of admission is steep but scholarships are often available.
5. Give back to your writing community.
When Jennie Shortridge moved to Seattle in 2005 she met another writer, Garth Stein, at a reading and became “writers-who-talk-shop-over-coffee.” Over time, they kept inviting other writers to join them. “No one knows what writers go through professionally except other writers,” Shortridge says.
By 2009, this writing community had grown in size and star-power, so Shortridge and Stein decided to form a nonprofit to give back to their community. through raising money and awareness for literacy and literary nonprofits. Today, Seattle7Writers is a collective of over 80 authors in the Seattle area. “We’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for literacy and rehomed nearly 80,000 used books,” Shortridge says. “But we’ve also created a community of writers, people who just get each other, which feels essential to me now.”
Online Course: Getting Started in Writing
During this workshop, you can expect to take an in-depth look at Keys to Great Writing by Stephen Wilbers, who teaches beginner writers how to start writing a novel or book and what it takes to get published. Draw upon advice from published authors and start your writing career today. Learn more and register.