Writers often get a bad rap for being an anti-social bunch. Yes, it’s true: a large percentage of us lean towards introversion, which is why writing is such a good choice for us. We can express ourselves without needing to, you know, actually speak to people face-to-face. Plus, introverted or not, writing requires a lot of solitude. We need quiet to think and sort out our plots; we spend a lot of time in our own heads or alone with our notebooks or computer screens creating imaginary worlds and living the lives of imaginary people. Sometimes we even opt out of social events in order to meet deadlines, often working into the dead of night when everyone else we know (besides other writers) is asleep.
But despite all these hurdles, we’re really not as anti-social as many non-writers think. I think even we think we are—pride ourselves in it even—but I’ve been finding that’s not entirely accurate. Writers are, after all, communicators. Sure, the above mentioned hurdles prevent us from getting out as much as our friends would probably like us to, but social media for instance, especially Twitter, is crawling with writers. Cooped up inside, we crave some form of human interaction, so online we go, even if it’s just to let everyone know what we had for breakfast that morning (writing fuel, we label it) or to Instagram a pic of our fourth cup of coffee in our cute Keep Calm & Write On mug (yes, I have one of these. It’s one of my favorites).
Online interaction is all well and good; it’s important to network with other writers and industry professionals. I know I’ve learned a ton just from chatting with other writers on Twitter—things I never would have known, or at least would have had to figure out the hard way, if I’d never joined. But here’s the thing: there’s only so much shop you can comfortably talk online with who knows how many people watching. That’s why I feel it’s important to get out and meet other writers face-to-face. These are your people! They know exactly what you’re going through every day. Go hang out!
I just got back from a fantastic small get-together yesterday with other writers I met on Twitter. We all met up at a restaurant and afterward some of us went to one of our houses and stayed up late drinking wine and playing games. I considered it to be not just a get-together but really, a form of writer’s retreat, even though, here’s the thing: we didn’t actually write. Not a single bit. But we talked about it. We commiserated. We gave each other tips. We joked and told stories of writing joys and mishaps. We talked about what kinds of books were selling and what kinds weren’t and why that might be and gee, how the heck are you supposed to know these things when, by the time you see those books on the shelves, the industry has already moved past that fad, and gah, you can’t, you just need to write what you want to write and hope for the best and cry, and laugh, and shrug, and keep on trying.
It was fantastic. It was relieving, in a way, to be around other people who “get” it. These are things that, sure, I can talk about with my non-writer friends, but they haven’t experienced it. So they can offer sympathy, but they can’t say “ugh, yes, been there, done that, oh and I also did this, have you tried this?” And a lot of the things we talked about were not things we would ever talk about online (at least not in such detail) except maybe in private messages, simply because it’s not a good idea to talk about your specific querying struggles online, or complain about certain industry trends, etc. These are off-the-record type conversations only, because that’s your public face. You can get pretty goofy, sure, but you must still remain professional to a certain extent. In person, you can talk shop more. And you should. It’s important to see that it’s not just you—someone else also got a nasty rejection yesterday that made them cry, but that they haven’t given up yet and neither should you.
So if you haven’t stepped past online interaction with your fellow writers yet, I highly recommend you do so. Whether it’s by going to a conference, joining a critique group, or simply organizing a get-together with a few other local writers, get out there and find your people!*
*Disclaimer: Please be smart though. The internet is a wild place full of unpredictable characters. Meet for the first time in groups, or at the very least, in a public place until you get to know the people/person you’re meeting up with better and know whether you can feel safe with them. Use your head!
When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.