Writing can be a lonely art—long hours spent sitting alone in a quiet room with your thoughts, your imagination. As thrilling as it is when the words flow and the story comes together, it still can be an isolating experience. This is only deepened by the fact that many creative are introverted. Social awkwardness is common, and shyness in large groups often goes right along with it. Yet one of the demands of readers and publishers is author interaction with the public, not only to sell and promote books, but the open the door slightly on the mysteries of the inner creative process and connect. From conventions to workshops and retreats to bookstore signings and other appearances, the ways contact occurs can be quite varied. Social Media only broaden that, it seems. Which is why some of the most treasured gifts a writer discovers in the writer’s journey are fellow writers.
No matter where you are in your writing journey and path to success, you are bound to discover that other writers will treat you with great kindness, offering encouragement, advice, assistance and, most of all, respect. I have shared a stage with writers like Tamora Pierce, Robin Wayne Bailey, Jim C. Hines, and Seanan McGuire—all who’ve released multiple books and reached levels of success I haven’t yet. And every one of them was so gracious and kind and supportive. I was never once made to feel less in any way. They treated me like a peer, and it has been so humbling and encouraging and energizing for me.
In addition to the loneliness, the writing world is filled with rejection. It’s almost a daily occurrence, certainly several times a month. From editors passing on stories to sending notes, from reviewers and readers critiquing your prose to publishers and sales charts and more, rejection is like bread and butter in this business. You may have heard the phrase: “don’t become a writer unless you have a thick skin,” and the irony of that is most of us write because of passions and emotions which drive us, the exact opposite of people with thick skins.
But other writers have been there and continue to be. And perhaps that’s the bond that draws us together more than any other. We know what it feels like. We know how hard it is. We know the struggles and the uncertainties and the challenges, and so, when we meet fellow journeymen, we can’t help but think of them as friends and family, in a sense. I have writer friends of all ideologies. We may not share political or religious ideas. We may differ on how we write and whom we write for. But somehow none of that matters when we bond as writers, and that’s why, all writers should surround themselves with fellow writers whenever they can—to transcend the separation and divisions and distances of writing and the world and be reminded for however long that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Chances are, no matter what the struggle or difficulty you face as a writer, there are others out there who know exactly how you feel, exactly what it’s like. It’s rejuvenating to encounter that empathy and the closeness it inspires. It’s also rejuvenating to be around people with driving passions and emotions and wonderful ideas. I always come away not only encouraged and happy but also inspired and moved and so much more.
There’s value in writers in community interacting. Like the ultimate reviewers and readers, they come with a level of understanding and insight that provides immediate connection. Not that everyone likes everyone all the time or that there aren’t rivals and spats. But still, the value of writers in community is a powerful force. It’s why writers actually enjoy hanging out in Google Plus hangouts where no one talks but everyone writes. Other people may think that’s strange and a time sink but writers get it and thrive on such opportunities. It’s why writers go to retreats and conferences and even Conventions and hang out together, and it’s why so many writers speak often of friendships with other writers. We’re part of a club, a fraternity, a special order that forever binds us.
Who’s in your community? Both online and offline, who are the other creative you know and draw strength from? Do you make special effort to offer them the same support? Are there things you can do to build that community and help others to do the same? Jeremy’s doing it right now by letting me guest post here on the blog again, and I’m really grateful. We’ve talked online quite a bit on and off but we’ve never met face to face, yet here he is, opening his circle for me. As long as fellow writers exist, we are never alone, scribes. And isn’t it great to know we don’t have to be?
In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancée, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
8 thoughts on “The Value Of Writers In Community – Guest Post by Bryan Thomas Schmidt”
This year I finally joined a writer’s group – actually we formed after we all met in a writing workshop. It’s been great, we meet once a week and do writing exercises (which, although I know I should, I NEVER do unprompted), we share our projects through our Facebook page and we are working on a group project as well – it’s a great way to push yourself not just to write more, but to work outside your usual comfort zone. I strongly recommend writers find themselves some like-minded souls!
Sounds great, Charmaine. Glad you found those connections!
I think many of us would have quit if not for the support of our fellow writers. And I agree about how most successful writers are supportive of those who are less advanced in their career goals.
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Jim C Hines is the man. The first time I met him he was the guest of honor at ICON. I expressed my desire to someday be sitting where he was, and he immediately gave up his chair.
You are so right. Folks can do what I did, which was sign up with Meetup.com and start a writer’s group so I could mingle with other writers, all in different stages in their career, on a regular basis. After a year, we’ve formed a great bond. And I get the joy of mentoring those who are trying to climb that ladder and learning from their experiences as well.
Truly awesome post, and a much needed reminder!