Friday, December 5, 2008

Building A Community

It's December 5th. Five days ago I failed to complete NaNo. I'm not terribly disappointed, but I had hoped to fare better this year than I did last, and I only did by a little bit. I did, however, succeed in producing two new short stories, which I didn't even manage to do last year. So there's some good to come of it.

I've been talking a lot lately with various colleagues about "community". For writers, community seems like a vague notion of being a part of something within the realm of "writership". Many writers think of it as merely being a part of this movement or that; to me, though (and to a lot of my colleagues), being a part of a writer community means interacting personally with other writers through workshops, critiques, and group sessions that enhance our own writing while benefitting our colleagues with our knowledgeable critique. There are writers I know who write in isolation, hoarde their writing, and chastise the writer who exposes himself to unnecessary criticism. To me, those writers have a disadvantage, because the very writers they believe will be giving this criticism are, in fact, their readers. To be able to reach even one of them, means reaching an audience, and that is an indication that the story is worthy of a larger audience, which is the point of writing, right?

Yes, I've said before that you write for yourself, but most of us hope to at least make a little but of money. In order to do that, we have to find an audience that will accept our work. It is much easier to figure that out in a small group setting than to wait years to try and find it the hard way: that is to send it out over and over again to publishers who continue to reject our work. Find the one or two people in your group who enjoy your work; figure out what they read; find magazines that publish work similar to that; then stick to trying to reach the audience at that publication.

Communities are meant to help others. We build communities because we want support: everyone wants to feel like they're part of something. To be a part of a writing community is a big deal to me, because I feel like my career relies on it. Creativity breeds in communities because creative types tend to enjoy fostering creativity in others. Writers can be very selfish at times - not wanting to share their vision with the world - but most ofthe time we're very good about sharing opinions and aiding our fellow writers.

Trevor, the leader of The Milwaukee Writer's Group, and I have been discussing the merger of our two groups, hoping to provide a wider array of options to the writing community here in Milwaukee. I think it's a good venture, and I look forward to the fruits of our labor.

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