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.