Writing Takes a Village

I’m an extrovert and a writer. I often joke that I am cursed with this combination because, given the choice of going out with friends or staying home and writing, 99 out of 100 times I would choose going out with friends. Now, I love writing. I have been a writer all my life. But I love being out and about, being with large groups of people. I thrive on the energy of it all. So making the choice to write can be tough.

More recently, I have come to realize that writing isn’t really as solitary of an activity as it seems. It’s taken me quite a long time to get to this point. Silence is my friend when I write, thus it can make it difficult to be around others and writing at the same time. But I have also discovered a lot of advantages to involving other people in my writing in a multitude of ways. Yes, you do have to spend time by yourself writing, though even that itself doesn’t have to be done alone if you are with the right group of people. Regardless, nothing about storytelling is solitary.

Nothing brought this out more to me than an author event I went to on Tuesday night. Kansas City was lucky to welcome Cassandra Clare and her writing buddy Sarah Rees Brennan. We had the unique experience of watching/listening as Sarah interviewed her friend and writing partner, Cassandra. Their rapport was palpable and it was obvious that their bond as friends and writers was very strong. I was instantly reminded of people in my writers’ group. They told jokes, talked about their adventures and travels and their writing processes. Watching the two together was truly a treat. I think Sarah really brought out a lot of Cassandra’s personality and she understands the stories that Cassandra writes rather intimately since she too writes in the same universe.

Me making awkward conversation with Cassandra Clare as she signs my book 🙂 She was super nice!

They also talked about trading stories and sharing ideas. It reminded me of my friendship with J.R. Boles and the other writers in our group. J.R. and I are rather close and know each others’ stories very well too. We don’t necessarily write in the same universes, but we edit and help each other out of writer’s block and other binds. We discuss plot and character development. It’s a fabulous thing.

Right now, J.R. is doing a second read of my novella and two other members of my writers group, A. E. Ash and Bryn Donovan are also beta reading. We all write in different genres (from Sci-Fi, Epic and Urban Fantasy to Paranormal Romance and me—the oddball of the group :P—with my literary fiction with a thread of magical realism thrown in for good measure), but somehow it just works. Other writers who help me along are Cassandra Chandler, Robin Morlock, Jessica Powell and Kevin Dilmore, more people who are outside of my typical genres, but whose own experiences and perspectives help me and shape me as a writer.

My writers’ group as a whole is a great motivator. We help each other be more prolific and no one gets jealous of success achieved by another member of the group. We all celebrate everyone’s achievements and everyone encourages each other. It’s fabulous and truly unique. As a writer, I’ve discovered you really need that, especially because many writers spend a lot of time hating on their own work. I personally write something and lament how much I hate it afterwards and then spend hours and hours editing and revising and then I still can find things to hate about it. Some days I feel better about my creations than others. I have no explanation for this. But my writers group? They always have my back. They have critique coupled with encouragement and its just what I need. They constantly build me up.

As more and more people are turning to self-publishing, my writers’ group has come in handy in this department too. Thanks to them, I have a whole host of people to tap into and ask about their experiences and to get their advice on how best to put my forthcoming story out there. This means I don’t have to go in there blind. I can learn from their mistakes and their successes. We also serve as beta readers for each other as time allows. Plus, my cover artist is the same guy who designed J.R. Boles’ books. She spoke very highly of him and I am excited to work with him on my own book.

Another great thing about a writers’ group is that you can sit and write together. I get my hang out with people time, even if we are all being silent. This means I get to fulfill my insatiable desire for people time while also being productive. Plus, all the keyboard tapping and the creative energy flowing really ups my word counts.

As a millennial who often needs validation and the opinions of my network, I think the concept of writing needed to evolve and once I understood that writing takes a village, I became a lot happier and a lot better at what I do. I do a lot of things in my life based on approval and recommendations that I receive from others. It’s just who I am. So it makes sense that writing also became a collective experience. Luckily I have a great community of writers to help me along the way.

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