The Importance of Writing Support & Where to Find it

Writing can feel like such a solitary endeavor. And most of the time it is. I mean, no one can write the words in your head onto a piece of paper like you can. You know your story. You are the sherpa to your characters, carrying their hopes and desires and misbeliefs, guiding them through a story landscape to whatever their ultimate destination ends up being. You are often alone in a room or alone in a crowded coffee shop, your eyes glued to the cursor or yellow legal pad as you pound/sketch out character arcs and plot twists.

But while the act of writing itself may be up to you, you don’t have to go it alone.

In fact, I would argue that you shouldn’t.

Yes. You still have to write the words alone. But learning craft, navigating publishing options, and getting feedback on your writing can, and probably should, happen in community. And my experience has taught me that there really is nothing more supportive than the writing community.

I have been lucky in my journey to community and wanted to share a few ways I have found connection with other writers:

Taking a Class: The Margaret Mitchell House

We moved to Atlanta the summer of 2004. I was working from home for my job based in Washington, DC and my husband was in grad school. I needed to create community for myself. One of the ways I did that was join a writing class at the Margaret Mitchell House (back when they offered these classes). It was a blast. It kept me writing and, more importantly, opened my mind up to critiquing. I learned a lot about what was a helpful critique and what wasn’t in that class. At a writer’s conference in Atlanta more than a decade later, my friend (see critique partner below) pulled me aside to say, “You absolutely must meet Benji!” Standing in front of me was Benji Carr, a former Margaret Mitchell House writing group alum! It’s been fantastic to reconnect and watch his journey to publication (read my review of his book Impacted* here, then check out him reading a short piece about the Waffle House he worked on in that class we took together at the 30:15 mark of this podcast). I have lost touch with most of the other writers from that group–it was in the days before social media had taken off to keep folks connected–and I am thrilled to have someone from those days back in my circle. It reminds me of just how far we’ve both come in our writing lives.

Benji, Kristine and I reunited at the 2019 Broadleaf Writer’s Association Conference.

Joining an Organization: Women’s Fiction Writers Association

About seven years ago, I was home visiting my parents when a friend invited me to a book launch for an author she knew. I love a good book event, so of course I said yes! It was the launch of Barbara Claypole White’s The Perfect Son*. In the signing line, my friend, Sonya, introduced me to Barbara and shared that I was a writer, too. I wasn’t brave enough to call myself a writer yet, so I tried to downplay it, but Barbara wouldn’t have it. She asked about the manuscript I was working on and her eyes lit up. She thrust bookmarks in my hand jotting down the name of an organization she thought I should join. That organization was the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I joined not too long after and haven’t looked back since.

WFWA Alexandria Retreat, October 2022

In the WFWA, I have found a group of writers who are supportive and knowledgeable and generous and funny and sweet and f*cking fantastic at telling stories. Whether it’s a workshop, webinar, conference, local get together, mentorship program, or chatting together on social media, this organization has done nothing but strengthen my writing and my confidence. I can’t rave enough about them. If you even think you might be writing Women’s Fiction, please check it out. You won’t regret it.

Central NC WFWA Writers at a recent gathering to talk craft

But there are groups for all kinds of writers out there. Check for a state or city-based writing network. I know NC and Atlanta both boast organizations. Check your genre–there are organizations for thriller authors, romance writers, children’s book authors, science fiction and fantasy, and so many more! Google is your friend. And Twitter hashtags. Explore until you find the group that resonates with you and your writing most.

Critique Partners

Kristine has been on my writing journey for so long I can barely remember doing it without her. While we don’t tend to write in the same genre and our styles are different, it makes for a great critique partnership because we challenge each other in areas that the other might be blind to. Plus, we’ve been reading each other’s material now for long enough that we can tell what the other is trying to do but might not be achieving just yet. I trust her feedback to be honest and kind and always constructive. We also trust each other enough to push back or question that feedback, which can lead to tough love and lively discussion. And there is nothing better than having a friend who knows your story that you can pepper with texts when you just can’t figure out the damn title to your book after brainstorming 100 crappy ideas already (I am speaking of myself. Kristine is much better at titling her own work!).

Kristine and I at the Broadleaf Writer’s Association Conference back in 2018.

Family

I have always put my writing life front and center with my kids. I wanted them to see me struggle for something. Granted, I didn’t think that I would still be struggling six years later, but what a lesson for them to be learning as they enter their teen years. They see their mom still working, still trying, still not giving up on her dream. I also have a husband who has never once doubted me and in fact often holds more faith in me and my dream than I do. Which is paramount. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve showed up at dinner threatening to quit. He hasn’t let me do it yet.

A Book Coach

Yes, I recently became a book coach and so it seems like this is a self-serving addition, but let me tell you, I practice what I preach. In the midst of trudging through this revision I realized I needed extra help. More than just critique, more than a mentor, more than a word of faith from my husband. I needed big picture, structural support. So when a fellow coach who I worked with during our certification program contacted me about working together on her manuscript, I went out on a limb and asked if we could trade services. It’s been a game changer. Not only are our deadlines keeping me moving forward during these particularly tricky parts that are very easy to procrastinate on, but her feedback is shining a spotlight on aspects of my character arc I kept trying to ignore. I know that I would not be making it through this revision without her feedback, accountability, and brainstorming help.

Long story short: Find your people–whether it’s a person who asks after your writing and genuinely supports your dream or it’s several people in a local writing group or it’s hundreds in a large association or it’s all of the above. I have learned–and continue to learn–so much from all of these various people in my writing community. I know who to reach out to with questions about craft or updating my website or helping me complete a revision. I can call on my critique partner to set me a deadline for her to reread pages. I can offer support and feedback to others and feel joy watching them also grow on their writing journey.

Find your people. Then invite others into your circle. The writing community is a beautiful thing.

You can go it alone, but you don’t have to. The ride is so much more fun with friends!

*This post contains affiliate links which means if you buy through that link, I receive a small commission. So thank you! 🙂

Featured photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer and book coach who helps writers get unstuck so they can reach their writing goals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: