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Do You Want to Know the Secret to Being a Better Writer? Join a Writers’ Community!

by Kerry Kerr McAvoy

Before I can sit down to write, I have to clean off the counters, make the bed, and do the dishes. For some reason, I can’t write in a cluttered house. Maybe that was the idea behind the quote, “a messy house equals a messy mind.” All I know is that I need these things finished before I’m able to sit down and create.

Common Writing Advice

To write well, all writer needs certain types of support.

What kind? That varies from person to person, but most of us know we need to read more, write daily, and keep a journal.

Ray Bradbury advises that

You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

As vital as all these tasks are to honing the writing craft, it wasn’t until I joined a writers’ community that I saw significant improvement in my skills and income.

Here’s How I Started Writing

I began writing fourteen years ago. My first project idea took me by surprise. I awoke with an outline and imperative to do something with it. My husband, supportive, encouraged me to pursue this initiative. It felt like such a radical risk that I needed his backing as an endorsement. I’m not sure I would have been able to have stepped out and started to write if he had not given me the go-ahead.

Now, I’m not afraid to do unusual things. I’ve raised sheep, sold knitted and felted goods at craft fairs, canned most of our fruits and juices, owned a spinning wheel to make yarn, and started a local 4-H group.

The difficulty I had with the book idea wasn’t a crisis of courage, but vulnerability. I’ve done many gutsy things in my life. But there are few things as scary as pushing the publish button on a writing project. Writing is risky because we reveal who we are and what we think in the written word.

I used to have a sticky note adhered to the top corner of my computer screen. It was a quote from Tristine Rainer’s book Your Life as Story that read, “Write what I dare not say.” For nearly a year, that reminder helped me find the boldness to share my pieces.

My husband’s support was conditional. I knew he would champion my writing as long as it didn’t disrupt our family time or marriage. I made sure my work schedule mirrored his and avoided writing over the weekends or while on holiday. Yet, I knew if this had been one of his new projects, we all would have made accommodations.

I Attended Writers Conferences

Two years into the writing, I started going to writers’ conferences. Meetups were still too new and not available in my hometown, and social media hadn’t matured enough to offer online groups. These annual conferences were one of the few ways I could meet fellow writers and authors.

It was through those events; I met my first editor, a grumpy older gentleman. He may have taught me a lot, but I wished he’d shown more kindness. A mutual friend gave me the lead on a graphic designer for my book cover.

For twelve years, I cobbled together and survived with a rudimentary support system. I lost more money than I made.

It wasn’t until two years ago that something changed, and I took a giant leap forward. It happened when I joined a writer’s workshop.

Then Things Dramatically Changed Improved

Something powerful occurs when a small group of writers works together. You rub off onto each other as you challenge one another on the finer points of the craft.

About the same time, I returned to blogging. I’d written four-years worth of articles early on but had burned out. This time I promised myself that I’d do it differently. I needed to find a new source of inspiration. Mining my work expertise only lasted so long before I sputtered out of ideas. I needed a new conduit for topics and decided to use my daily life as inspiration.

I joined a class for more blogging help, and the success was striking. Because of the instructor’s feedback and encouragement, my income went up, and my followers grew.

Importance of a Writers’ Community

Community involvement has also brought me new connections with fellow writers. I now have several I can turn to for advice and support. They have critiqued and edited my work and gave design feedback. They have emotionally held my hand as I nervously published pieces and then celebrated my successes.

This incredible group of writers has become like family. They have checked in after an unusual span of silence and followed up when I’ve posted a vulnerable piece. They’ve listened to me complain and shored me up when I’m insecure.

Yes, it’s essential never to stop challenging ourselves as writers. Reading, having a regular practice of writing, and finding reliable editorial support are all a necessary part of this process. Still, we most likely won’t thrive until we join a writers’ community.

I firmly believe I would have never become the writer I am today if I hadn’t found this group. And the best news is that it’s never been easier to locate this kind of support, whether on social media, MeetUp, and national and regional associations. Or you could also start one of your own.

Do you want to grow? Find others who will challenge you.

The How to Publish Your Book podcast has started a new Discord writers community. It’s free to join until the end of February. Want to learn more? Click here.

Worksheet

Are You Getting the Writing Support You Need? Quiz (Find out by joining our writers’ community for access to this 16-question survey.)

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