In the Writing Arts department and anywhere else you can find writers, you will likely hear the term “writing community” thrown around a lot. But what does that mean? What is a writing community? How do you form or join one? And how will all of that change in light of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe?
A writing community is a group of writers that seek to foster growth in each other through individual and group activities. People tend to think of writing groups or communities as places where you are given a kind of piece to write and you have to produce that piece within a time frame for other members to review, but the definition is much more fluid than that. As long as the group is working towards the common goal of growing as writers, it’s a writing community. Your writing community could be you and three friends, a group of five classmates, or thirty strangers who have come together with the same purpose.
One of the biggest questions that I asked when I heard that term floating around was, how do I join or form a writing community? I can think of at least one instance before I joined Writing Arts where I wanted to join a group of writers, but I decided against it because I didn’t think I was as good or prolific as the other members.
When joining a writing community, you have to ask yourself some insightful questions. Why do I want to join a community? What am I looking to get out of it? What am I willing to put in? How can I balance my comfort level with my learning?
For instance, I could join a group of fairly new writers who wrote exclusively short fiction, just like me, and I’m sure I would learn a lot, but would I be pushing my own limits? And not necessarily just pushing the limits of your work in your preferred genres, but don’t be held back by the idea that you have to be on the same “level” as all of the members in your group. Every writer has something to learn from other writers.
If you’re looking to join a community within Writing Arts, you have options. There is of course the Writing Arts Club, where members answer writing prompts and decide on genres for their zine at the beginning of the semester, and continue to hone their writing experience as the semester goes on. Members are students, just like you, who all have different perspectives to offer on writing. It’s a great place to start if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for in a community. In your fellow students, there are other dedicated, aspiring writers who may be interested in forming a community as well. Get to know your classmates! They could be writing connections for the rest of your life. For a comprehensive overview of other Writing Arts organizations that could help you find your community, check out this post.
There are also tons of writing communities on Tumblr and other Internet platforms you can use. Tumblr recommends groups and chats you can join. Follow some writers on Instagram? See someone whose style you love? DM them! The first step to finding your community is reaching out. Digital writing communities are especially appealing in our current social distancing period. Established groups can no longer meet in person, but they can still foster their evolution as writers. You can communicate with other writers through a wide variety of apps, like Discord, Zoom, and Google Meet. Writing communities are flexible and creative, so don’t be daunted by the current circumstances--you can still join one!
Alternatively, you can always start your own writing community. Maybe your roommates want to join you. Or some classmates. Internet mutuals. The three weird old ladies down the street. Maybe you get the chance to meet a published author, and join a group they are associated with. The advantage of starting your own community is that you can tailor it to your liking. You can have meetings or no meetings, structure or no structure, you can write, share memes, critique each other’s work, whatever helps your members.
Most importantly, don’t feel like you have to tick off certain boxes to join a writing community. Just because you’re a new writer or a transfer student or anything else does not mean that you can’t find a writing community. Writing communities are places of learning and fellowship, meant to help members thrive. They’re inclusive because members are connected by a love of writing. Everyone is equal in a community, because everyone has something to contribute.
You can be a casual writer or an aspiring novelist, but it is your love of writing that drives your desire to grow and consequently your desire for community. Allow that desire to develop into your own community of writers, all there to help each other grow.