So much of my growth as a writer has happened in the context of community. For years I tried to figure things out on my own, attending writing conferences and reading books to learn about the publishing world. This was during the 1990s, in the earliest days of the Internet, when websites were static pages and “You’ve Got Mail” was music to our ears.
After years of slogging away on my own, my writing started to flourish when I found people online who, like me, were trying to figure out the writing life. Blogging gained traction and we recommended writers on our blogrolls or we’d click through to visit people via link parties and blog hops. Whether we could voice it at the time or not, I suspect we all sought some level of support and connection and found ourselves delighted to discover it right at our fingertips.
We published stories, reflections, and personal essays, and we took time to read each other’s work. We slipped into comment boxes to respond to someone’s words. We would find inspiration to write on a similar theme and point back to the original source so readers could find more writers and dig even deeper into a topic.
We promoted each other, shared resources, celebrated successes, and commiserated when needed. We consistently helped and applauded each other. In so doing, I suspect many of us began to view ourselves and our own work as a writer with more joy and excitement, living out what Louise DeSalvo expressed so well in her book The Art of Slow Writing:
I believe that our own work will flourish if we find the support we need, but also if we consistently help other writers throughout our writing lives.
And not only because we can then count on a coterie of people to give us help when we need it, but also because if we’re not generous to others, we can’t possibly be generous to ourselves. (p. 110)
The Internet looks a bit different than it did when I was mingling with fellow bloggers in our online spaces. Blogging communities exist, but they seem a bit different than in those early days. Collaborative blogs offer a way to connect, as do Facebook groups and organizations that encourage and nurture rich discussion in their comment threads. We can still find each other. We can still encourage one another. We can still commiserate, celebrate, and connect. We can be generous in countless ways.
Join someone’s book launch team or a Facebook group for writers. Find a collaborative blog and regularly visit to read, encourage, and support the writers in that space. Share the link to an essay contest with the people in your writing group. Recommend a writer to an editor or agent.
However we go about it, this principle seems like the best way to approach our writing lives: help other writers in any way we can. When we do what we can to encourage and support others, as DeSalvo says, we’ll likely find the support we’re hoping for as well.
Source: DeSalvo, Louise. The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014. Print. [p. 110]
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