Avoid The Proverbial Vacuum

CritiqueGroup

From the time I got my first job, I was surrounded by co-workers. Managers who put me through training, old pros who’d been at their profession for years and fellow newbies and trainees filled each office in every industry. We all worked side by side, a hive of new ideas, eager optimism and valued experience co-existing productively. I learned more in those environments–about life, work and people–than in all my years of college and graduate studies.

And then I became a writer.

The writing profession is an odd mix of contradictions. Writers daydream and percolate ideas, often craving quiet to organize our thoughts, and we take care to carve out time just to work on our words. But in order to become better at anything, we need to gather. It’s imperative that we feed off the energy of other artists, exchange ideas and frustrations, offer solutions and learn tricks of the trade. How to strike a balance?

It was always a wonder to me how writers accomplished so much before the Internet. Conversely, I often muse what an achievement it is to produce anything today, now that we have the Internet, the super highway of distraction. The answer lies not in the tools we use but in one action: connection.

Writers of old had their klatches: Hemingway had Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. Emile Zola had Gustave Flaubert, Edmond Goncourt, Guy de Maupassant , and Ivan Turgenev. These groups would gather, talk, drink, smoke and energize each other in their art. They knew their words were vital but the craft and its ideas had to grow: an artist could not exist in a vacuum.

Today, I am part of several writers’ groups, both locally and online. I draw ideas, feedback and knowledge from my fellow writers. We have  different degrees of experience, and we vary in style and proficiency, but we don’t compete. We encourage and cheer each other through failure and success. As it should be.

Whether you’re suffering from writer’s block, lacking inspiration or doubting your talents, the key is not to give up. You are still a writer, despite setbacks. Connect with other writers. They’ll be just what you needed, no matter what’s ailing you.

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2 thoughts on “Avoid The Proverbial Vacuum

  1. Good post, Chris. Interested to know which online writing groups you use. I’ve connected to a few through linked in but there are too many members to be helpful. Thanks!

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    • Thanks, Linda! I am a member of the Historical Novel Society and on the Board of Women’s Fiction Writers Association, as those are the two main genres in which I write. I have joined these and many other writers’ groups on Facebook. Sub It Club has a regular group and a critique partner matchup group; Women’s Fiction Writers Association has a public page for non-members; and the closed groups are great for discussion, feedback and networking. Most times they discourage marketing and promos, so although you have to request to join, once you’re in it’s all about support, encouragement and information. Many of the groups also have corresponding websites and Twitter handles. I’ve also listed some great sites on my page above, under “For Writers”. And don’t forget Google+ and Twitter for finding and following other writers, readers, agents and editors!

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