One of my absolute favorite things about being a writer is being a part of the writing community. When I first started writing, I was at one of the lowest points in my life–feeling lost and lonely and wondering what I was doing with my life. I had a business I enjoyed, owned my first house, and my husband and I were starting to think about a family. But I just wasn’t excited about anything. I wasn’t excited about what I saw when I looked into my future.
Then I started to think about writing my first book. I did a lot of research about how to do this. I mean, do normal people write books?! It was right around that time that I discovered National Novel Writing Month and a whole new world was opened to me–that of the writing community. As I connected with people who had the similar goals, I felt like I was coming home. It wasn’t just about the writing, it was that these people seemed to view life the same way I did. They understood that writers are writers down to the very core of their being and nothing in life makes sense until, at 5 years old or 55, we find our way to the page. I was home.
Since then, rarely has a day passed that I haven’t touched base with “my people” in one way or another. It’s writers who assured me I wasn’t alone in following this crazy passion of mine, no matter how hard, misunderstood, and sometimes fruitless it can be. It’s writers who encouraged me and lifted me up during the hard times, even when my hard times weren’t always writing-related. It’s writers who, through their blogs, critiques, craft book suggestions, workshops, conferences, and extensive online chats, taught me how to write. I don’t know where I’d be in my career or my life without this amazing group of people.
But not only have I been rewarded by the kindness of others–giving back has been just as fulfilling. The further along I get in my journey, the more I try to return the favors that have been extended to be over the years. First, because it makes me feel even more tied to this community I love. Second, because I know how hard it can sometimes be to bridge the gap from beginning to intermediate and intermediate to advanced writer. Third, because for me, there has been nothing more fulfilling than knowing I’m helping other people follow their passion and get excited about their own futures. The writing life is full of ups and downs, but it’s a beautiful journey most people never get to experience.
Sharing your experience with others makes it even more beautiful. No matter how long you’ve been writing, there are always ways to give back.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Blogging. I’ve learned probably 90% of what I know about writing and publishing from blogs such as these. Even if you’re just starting to learn about the craft, there are always people hopping on the train behind you and who have yet to learn the lessons you already have. Share what you know.
Offer Up Your Specific Skills. Most writers are not just writers. Some are lawyers, life coaches, runners, stay-at-home parents, or like me, tech junkies. Whatever particular skills you already have can help other writers, from giving tips on balancing writing and fitness or writing and parenting to offering publishing legal advice or creating writing tools.
Critiquing. Sometimes the hardest part about being a writer is trying to figure out what you’re doing on your own. Giving objective feedback on another writer’s specific strengths and weaknesses can help them move forward leaps and bounds. And you’ll learn a lot from reading objectively too.
Volunteering for Writing Organizations. Most writing organizations are completely volunteer run and every single position is important. They are always looking for help.
Creating Connections. If you come across a romance-writing friend who needs a critique partner and you write fantasy, reach out to your other romance-writing friend and see if they’d be interested. If a friend has a research question about the medical field, ask your doctor cousin if you can pass on the questions. These seemingly little things can make a huge difference.
Just Being There. It’s hard to balance writing and life alone without taking on additional responsibilities, I know. But most of the time, the best thing you can do for other writers is let them know they’re not alone–you’ve been there, you understand, and they’ll get through this too. And, more than that, you’ll be there to congratulate them on their successes along the way, just like they’ve done for you.
In what ways do you give back to your fellow writers? What has the writing community meant to you?
Jamie Raintree writes Women’s Fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing–her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.