I am an interesting contradiction in terms: a loner who prefers to spend most of her time on her own, but who also values community above almost anything else.

Let me explain, if I can.

I live by myself (if you can count living with five cats as living by yourself). I work a job where during the quieter times of the year I might only see a few people over the course of my day’s shift. And I am a writer—by definition a career path spent mostly hunched over a keyboard in solitary splendor.

And I like it that way.

But I have no illusions about why this lifestyle, at least for me, remains healthy and productive. In a word: community.

More specifically, my writing community, which is extensive. This blog, for instance, is the newest addition to that community, but I also have a number of critique partners (without whom my writing would be much poorer), and hundreds of writer friends who encourage, teach, and inspire me. Some of these folks have opened doors for me, or generously taken the time to educate me about the workings of the publishing world and shared their own journeys with me. There have been times of discouragement and doubt when these voices in the wilderness (and Lisa DiDio’s Uggs, aimed at my backside) have been the only things that have kept me going.

But community doesn’t just provide encouragement when times are tough. They give you people to bounce ideas off of, and someone to celebrate with when things finally go right. Having other authors in my life—many of whom I have never met, save through the medium of the internet—gives me a sense of belonging; people who speak the same language, if you will, and who never get tired of discussing plotting vs. panstering, agents and editors, and the dreaded edits.

I didn’t start out with this community, of course, nor did it come about accidentally. When I decided on the life of a professional author, I set out purposely to find people with whom I could share this strange and solitary career path—and the love of words and writing that drove me to follow it.

If you are a writer, I highly recommend building your own writing community. Start by following the authors you enjoy on Facebook and Twitter, by reading their blogs and commenting, and by reaching out to other writers at every stage of their careers. And don’t just take in wisdom and advice, either. Help to promote the people you like, offer advice if you have any, take part in contests, and join writing loops. Writing communities don’t build themselves, after all. But then, neither do writing careers. And if you want to have one, you are going to need the other.

Welcome to ours.

Deborah Blake


8 responses to “Community

  1. Raymond Bolton

    You’re fortunate to have a writers’ group. Despite the artistic nature of Santa Fe, the presence of the New Mexico Book Association and the recently demised PEN New Mexico, I have yet to find a serious group of the kind you belong to. Aside from the times I’ve been able to afford Kate’s services as line editor / book doctor, I’ve had to slog on alone.

    • My first writer’s group–local–was two other folks, one of whom has left 🙂 My writer’s community exists entirely online at this point, and includes my mother (a gifted author in her own right, and a killer editor), Lisa (who lives in CA while I live in NY), and a few other non-local people. It still works just fine. Thank the interwebs.

  2. Great post Deb!

    The internet really has helped with communities of folks who perform more solitary professions. While I’ve met nearly all my writer friends in person, I first met all of them online. So I wouldn’t be anywhere without it! 😀


  3. Deb, I can still remember when my writing turned around – after years of thinkg I was going to be the next great writer. You know the one I mean, the solitary, garrett residing, scotch drinking genius who needed no one. But I was lucky. I found a community of writers quite by mistake and my writing world changed. I wouldn’t give up my community for anything – they’ve become friends and partners and often the ones who save me from despair.


  4. If it weren’t for the Net, I’d still be flying solo – and blind. It’s worth the effort to put yourself out there and connect. Give a little and get back a whole lot.

    (Plus, I get more use out of my Uggs these days…) 😉

  5. Deb –

    Great post. I have been in denial about needing community for a while now. And I’m sure that I’ll have to look for it on the web, too. Haven’t quite decided how, though. It seems like no one really has time. And I understand that.

    I’m glad that you have found your community. I am waiting for your fictional novel. If your blog voice is any indication, it should be wonderful

    Judy, Judy, Judy

  6. Yep, many, many of the people I count on to help me push through are here on the web. And while I have support from my friends in the physical world, it’s my writer community that helps keep me going.

  7. The internet has gone a long way in teaching me how to play nice with others..and taught me a sense of community & friendship that I would never have learned otherwise. Great post.

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