10 Writing Reminders You Need Now

Morning Pages at Ragdale
Morning Pages at Ragdale

Optional 7am morning pages

Do you have your calendar handy? Go grab it, I’ll wait…

How many writing slots do you have penciled in? When’s your next class (first class?), weekend retreat, or workshop scheduled? Have you finally booked that AirBnb weekend with the two writers from your group?

I just returned from a three-day StoryStudio Ragdale retreat that I signed up for in January and carefully budgeted each month to attend.

Before you roll your eyes and complain you don’t have the cash or the time for a fancy retreat, I confess neither do I. I made the cash with a second job at Starbucks (don’t ask), and CHOSE to sacrifice other things from my schedule so I could attend.

What follows is just a smidge, the tip of the proverbial iceberg, if you will, of what I got out of my time there. I almost cancelled, but so glad I didn’t.

#10) Make Space for Yourself and Your Work

Literal space in your house. This can be a chair with a TV tray next to it. Bless it, claim it, use it.

Or don’t. The space is yours.

Don’t you deserve a chair?

The Blue Room - Ragdale House

The room most associated with ghosts – and where The Time Traveler’s Wife was written!

 

#9) Yes, You Do Have Time to Write.

If you’re busy lunching with friends, or even working a second job, telling yourself you don’t have time, or you’ll make time soon, QUIT LYING.

For every book that almost got written, there’s a published author stopped at a red light jotting down ideas on a Starbucks napkin.

You don’t need to make time, you need to make choices.

#8) Replenish As Needed.

My week leading up to Ragdale was hellish: A death in the family, out-of-town guests, harried work schedule, funeral, eulogy. A tornado or large scale flood would have topped off the week perfectly.

All of my carefully laid plains to finish a synopsis, revise certain sections of my WIP, went out the window.

Instead, I gave myself permission to do what felt right. I even swapped one workshop for a two-hour nap.

#7) Let Go of Expectations.

I’m all for setting goals. That’s what made my first book possible. But instead of pressuring myself to perform in the evening readings, I allowed myself to enjoy the work of the other brilliant writers who shared.

Was I nervous to share something unpolished or less emotionally intense? Not really. I lowered my expectations and trusted my words.

#6) Write by Hand.

The research is in and writing by hand draws on different connections in the brain. It opens up other avenues. Plus, it’s quieter!

Our instructor required pen and paper in the workshop sessions, though computers were welcome any other time and place during the three-day retreat.

Plenty of current published authors aren’t above a legal pad and pen. Try it – it helps with #9 above.

#5) Don’t Compare.

Thirteen writers shared work generated by the same prompts. Guess what? No duplicates.

Completely different takes, distinct voices, a wide range of topics and themes. There’s room for us all at the table.

Daisies at Ragdale

Ahhhh, summer!

#4) Make Writer Friends.

When your partner tires of hearing about the latest problems your characters pose, or about the theme of your essay, writer friends will listen without vomiting.

They will offer insight, ask questions, care. It’s a fabulous universe to inhabit.

#3) Make Artist Connections.

Our group included a sculptor, a poet, essayists, senior citizens, new moms, teachers, published authors—an amazing array of creative output.

Creativity breeds creativity.

#2) It’s OK to Eat the Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This is a metaphor. Stick with me.

Linda, the Ragdale Fairy Godmother, prepares the most delicious, nutritious meals. Fresh ingredients, amazing flavor combinations (tortilla chip encrusted tilapia anyone?) and a wide variety for all three meals.

But it’s ok to eat a cookie if you’re eating healthy most of the time.

Strive for quality, but have fun, don’t put limits on what you’ll read or write. Surprise is good. Fun is good. Sometimes light is ok.

#1) Walk.

Easy to do when you’re surrounded by 50+ acres of wild prairie. Walking opens the creative pathways.

If it works for Mary Oliver, it will work for you.

Note: this isn’t a command to exercise. Lighten up. Go for a simple walk.

Ragdale House

A truly magical place.

And just in case you’re still making excuses (see #9 above), I got up an hour early to write this post. I’m off to the day job (where they’re debuting my department newsletter, joy), then home to make dinner, do laundry, pay bills, fill out financial aid forms, walk, read, and write.

Care to join me?

*Bonus reminder – I’m human and thought I could get away with not proofreading a second time…argggghhhhh…you can never get away with not proofreading a second time.

2 Thoughts on “10 Writing Reminders You Need Now

  1. “You don’t need to make time. You need to make choices.” The best advice I have heard in a long, long while. Thanks, Suzanne.

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Crying in Restaurants

Crying in Restaurants by Suzanne M. Brazil
Crying in Restaurants by Suzanne M. Brazil

Flickr: loungerie / Via Creative Commons

This is going to be my thing: sharing work that’s been previously rejected.

The following is a true story. The idea for the piece came from a writing exercise while on a writing retreat at Ragdale, an artist community on Chicago’s North Shore. Oh, and the title is courtesy of Dani Shapiro.

I submitted it twice and received two rejections: one with a personal note that they’d just published something similar; one with some suggestions for changes.

Writing is revision, and I’m arm-pit deep in revising my novel. So I’m not suggesting that we all run out and post our crappy stuff that couldn’t hack it elsewhere.

But I loved this piece. I loved that it happened. I loved writing it. I cried writing it. I’m glad it’s out of me, and I don’t want to work on it any more. I want to share it for whatever it’s worth.

The writing of it was the point. Not the publishing of it. Sometimes that’s enough.

 

Crying in Restaurants by Suzanne M. Brazil

My newly formed writing practice is fueled by a medium iced tea and a shortbread cookie at the local Panera coffee shop. In these two hours carved out of a busy weekend, I aim to add 500 words to the first draft of my novel, and I vow to stay off the Internet. But first, I reinforce my commitment with writing tips and encouragement from my favorite authors.

still writing

I begin with a chapter from Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro. In its pages, I see shades of myself in a description of her mother, a frustrated, middle-aged woman, clickety clacking away furiously on a typewriter.

My eyes fill with tears and my stuffy nose blocks the yeasty aroma of the café’s freshly baked bread. These hours with my laptop in the corner booth are my attempt to finally pursue a passion long denied. I’ve written my whole life but never allowed myself to believe I was a real writer.

I’ve written my whole life but never allowed myself to believe I was a real writer

Maybe the catalyst was an emptying nest, age spots on my hands, or preparing to celebrate my own mother’s 70th birthday. Whatever the cause, a few months ago, I realized I had to give writing everything I had, or regret it for the rest of my life.

Still Writing was a reward for meeting my word count goals. It joins Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and other sources of inspiration on my shelves.

For years, instead of writing, I’ve collected lives of real writers; living vicariously through Natalie Goldberg, Brenda Ueland, William Zinsser and many others.

For years, instead of writing, I’ve collected lives of real writers

Long ago, after reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, I filled countless yellow pads with morning pages. There were flashes of stories in those pages I didn’t yet have the skill or courage to tell.

Back then, I marveled at King’s brazen recounting of his rejection slip collection. What nerve to believe he had something to say, and how fortunate for his “dear readers” that he never gave up.

I’m part of the tribe because I write

In a later chapter of Still Writing, Shapiro recalls sending an early manuscript to author Tim O’Brien, one of her literary heroes. His unexpected and encouraging endorsement symbolically welcomed her into the tribe of writers.

A chill passes over me. Maybe it’s the air conditioning on this hot summer afternoon, or maybe it’s that this morning my son handed me a copy of his favorite reading assignment for the semester: O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

I close Dani Shapiro’s book and open my slim silver computer, prepared to add pages to my rough draft knowing I’m part of the tribe because I write. I allow myself one foray into social media to message the author who inspired my writing session today.

I click on Shapiro’s Facebook page not knowing who manages her account or if she’ll see it. I thank her for Still Writing and confess that reading her words and pursuing my passion has unleashed a flash flood of tears in this very public place.

Hours later, my laptop timer and the condensation on my watery iced tea signal it’s time to head home and make dinner. I’m satisfied with 873 words added to my manuscript. Before packing up, I check Facebook and see the message waiting icon. It’s from Dani Shapiro.

I wipe away new tears and take a screen shot of her generous, encouraging comments. As to my crying in the coffee shop, she empathizes and says she once thought of writing a book based on similar experiences. She’d call it Crying in Restaurants.

Dani Shapiro Facebook Message

 

 

 

6 Thoughts on “Crying in Restaurants

  1. Barbara Armstrong on April 5, 2016 at 7:51 am said:

    This will be copied and added to my files from my WRITER daughter and when she has her novel published, I will show it to her and we will probably be in a restaurant and we will both be crying!!!!!

  2. This is a great piece, Suzanne! I love those seemingly random synchronicities that give you chills. They’re kind of like trail markers, letting you know you’re on the right path. …I’d say you’re not only part of the writing tribe, you’re part of that tribe of encouraging and inspiring writers who welcome others into the fold. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  3. Daisy Wawrzonek on April 6, 2016 at 12:06 pm said:

    What a wonderful story!! Thank you for sharing.

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Top 10 Tips for a Do-It-Yourself Retreat

IMAG5025

Sawyer Writing Collective - Warren Dunes, MI

Google “Retreats” and you’ll find price tags ranging from $499 for a budget plan to the $3,000 range for deluxe accommodations. Excluding travel costs. If you need to get away on a budget and aren’t looking for a guru or instructor, try a DIY Retreat.

A weekend away with acquaintances who share a common goal can be more regenerative and productive than a best girlfriend getaway. Whether you’re in need of a yoga/fitness intensive, a relaxing spa experience, or a creative workshop weekend, you can save a ton of cash by planning your own.

Last month, I spent a perfect weekend with two fellow writers I met in a novel workshop. Elaine, Puja, and I shared a rented cottage on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan for 2 ½ days and spent an average of $106 each (excluding food).

Suzanne Brazil DIY Retreat

By the time we packed up for the late Sunday drive home, we’d already decided on a name for our group and plans to squeeze in another retreat before year-end.

Here are our Top 10 Tips for a Perfect DIY Retreat:

Once you’ve agreed on a date, schedule a meeting to decide the following and then confirm one way to communicate, email, text, Facebook, etc.

#1 Communicate vision or goals: Each attendee should be up front about what they want out of the time away. For example:  I want to walk outside and would love company; I want to hole up in my room and not come out unless I’m hungry; I’d love to share ideas.

As writers, we all craved uninterrupted writing time for our current works in progress. We originally decided on a group sharing for our second night. As Saturday approached, we were all making progress and wanted to stay focused on writing, so we cancelled the reading.

Lake Michigan Dunes, Sawyer, Michigan

#2 Decide on a budget: Be honest! The idea is to save money by arranging a DIY retreat, don’t lose sight of your spending limits. Your budget will likely determine the distance you’re willing to travel and preferred locations.

We chose the Harbor Country area near the Indiana/Michigan border. We divided the original cost of an available house by five people (the original number interested in going). We ended up with three writers and stayed within our budget, we just downsized the house.

Sawyer Writing Collective Writers' Retreat

#3 Book your lodging: One person arranges, collects the money, acts as liaison for booking, etc. For their trouble, they get first choice of room or the master. Alternatively, agree on sharing the researching duties and draw straws for the top spot.

Elaine emailed us with a few choices from the Airbnb website. We voted, Elaine booked, and we paid her via PayPal or personal check.

#4 Confirm meal arrangements: Plan on at least one communal meal. Depending on your location, you may decide to venture into town for one or more meals. As for groceries, everyone bring what they want but be willing to share. Label if it makes it easier, confirm what’s off limits and what’s open season.

We originally agreed on grilling Friday night and dining in town on Saturday. We brought our own entrees, shared salads and enjoyed a great meal. The next night, only two of us went out because the other writer was on a roll with her project. It worked!

#5 Discuss sleep schedules: Is one of you a late riser who needs morning quiet? Are you a confirmed snorer? Bring ear plugs and respect everyone’s preferences.

I was up early, Elaine had to have 8 hours, and Puja was at the mercy of her dog’s schedule.  First one up agreed to get the coffee brewing.

Warren Dunes, Lake Michigan

#6 Discuss bathroom arrangements: Know the quirks of your home for the weekend. Agree on a schedule if necessary.

As first one up, I showered while the others slept which gave the hot water tank time to refill (per our hosts’ instructions).

#7 Discuss house rules: Do you have smokers in your group? Pets? What about TV and Music? If you aim to be as courteous as possible, the others will reciprocate. Aim for inclusion, consideration, and respect for privacy.

We all traveled with earbuds and our laptops, went TV-free, and kept conversation to a minimum unless we were all on a break together. Elaine and I accompanied Puja when she had to walk her dog late at night. Puja knew I was skittish around dogs so made sure to sleep with the door closed and the puppy safe inside.

#8 Mark the opening and closing of your retreat: Don’t run off to unpack in your rooms the minute you arrive. Take a moment to toast the time you’ve carved out of your overstuffed lives and maybe even write down what your goals were when you booked. Post this somewhere in the common area so you’re all reminded why you’re there.

Elaine wanted to reach 10,000 words on her rough draft. Puja wanted to incorporate the various pieces of her project into one coherent document, and I wanted to revise chapters 1-5. We wrote this on a piece of paper and kept it out on the dining room table.

Sawyer Writing Collective - Goals

#9 Exchange something: Going away with others offers something a solo retreat does not, the opportunity to learn, interact, and share energy for a common interest. Think of one thing each of you can contribute: i.e., a new pose, a healthy recipe, an inspiring quote, a book recommendation, or a playlist geared toward your activity.

One of the benefits of having a hive mind is the serendipitous ideas and tips that arise. Be open to bumping into someone in the hallway and trying out an idea. Consider sharing a trinket of some kind to mark the occasion, it adds a little something. I had a variety pack of three notebooks with fun sayings on the cover. Cost? Less than $4

Writing Retreat, Sawyer, Michigan

#10 Evaluate Post-Retreat: Agree on follow-up questions ahead of time. Would you return to the same location or prefer someplace new? How did the meals work out? Did your group share great chemistry? Would you want to add or subtract attendees next time?

We each reached our goals and gave our retreat 5 Stars!

The Sawyer Writing Collective’s second retreat is scheduled for next month and I can’t wait. Our cost this time is only $86. T-Shirts are in the works, and we’re considering new members.

Books on Sawyer Writing Collective Writing Retreat

We came away with new books to read, interesting angles on our stories, and a deeper camaraderie around our passion: writing.

Have you been itching to get away? What would you like to accomplish or focus on in the last quarter of 2015 or the start of 2016? Why not find a yoga partner, classmate or acquaintance with similar interests and suggest a DIY retreat? If you follow the steps above, you’ll have a blast, and return to your regular lives refreshed, energized, and with cash to spare. Don’t you deserve it?

You can read more about my first retreat experience here.

Elaine Richards has an MBA, and a degree in journalism from USC. She is at work on her first novel. Connect with her on Twitter @Elaine_yr

Puja Mojindra is a graduate of the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)’s MFA Acting program and is currently at work adapting her one-woman play, A Great Dive, into a novel. Follow her on Twitter @PujaMohindra

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Thoughts on “Top 10 Tips for a Do-It-Yourself Retreat

  1. colleen on October 14, 2015 at 12:38 pm said:

    Great post, Suzanne! So glad you got to get away. So important to do. :O)

  2. My friends do this often just for getaways – I don’t know why I never thought of doing this for writing!

  3. Hello Suzanne, I’m revisiting this piece in advance of a retreat coming up in April. I’ve read several build-your-own retreat articles and your’s is still one of the best. Simple, thoughtful and obviously written by a writer who’s been there. Thanks again.

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Summer Colds, War Heroes, and Writing

http://realdealspanish.com/2015/02/04/sneezing-beginner-spanish-lesson/

http://realdealspanish.com/2015/02/04/sneezing-beginner-spanish-lesson/

Sick on the sofa with a moist summer cold (isn’t moist just the grossest word?) and thought I’d recap a crazy week or two.

Participated in my first Author Talk at a Book Store last Wednesday. Met a Special Ops war veteran who also just happens to be a debut novelist and Northwestern MFA grad…and a better-looking version of Brad Pitt. Nothing like that to make you feel inadequate. He also happened to be warm, genuine, funny and humble . . .

There were two other fabulous authors presenting and it was a treat. I was terrified at first and wanted to uninvite my family so they wouldn’t have to watch me fail. Finally took Liz Gilbert’s advice (fear is boring) and made myself breathe and enjoy. Family was supportive and wonderful as always and we had the most thrilling late-night dining adventure – that may be an essay or Live Lit piece in the future.

Emailed two award-winning authors and went out on a limb to see if they would do an interview. Both said yes! So far, I have received zero flat-out “NO’s” and only one “contact my publicist.” All the others have been game and super generous. Ask and ye shall receive!

Still basking in the joy of my 100-page review with my Novel in a Year teacher. She thinks it’s a real book! And it has tension! And darkness! And I’m good at dialogue!  I could just crap my pants I’m so happy. Of course the critique was about two paragraphs of what was fabulous and three pages of what needs to be fixed but it’s only the second draft. And she called it a book!

Going to Ragdale next week and can’t wait!

On the family front: Daughter’s wedding pictures are in and they’re breathtaking. Son set a new goal, decided to kick fear to the curb…said it was partially due to hearing me drone on about that. If we drone on long enough, they just might find something useful in what we say!

Remaining summer goals: Camp, Stick Toes in Ocean, Finish 2nd Draft

Other than the moist cold — have you ever had water squirt out your eye when you blow your nose? Is that a thing?

2 Thoughts on “Summer Colds, War Heroes, and Writing

  1. This posting makes me wonder: what does it take to consider oneself a writer? If it’s getting your book reviewed by another writer, participating in Author Talks, interviewing other writers, and then actually writing about your own life experiences in an intelligent, witty, and engaging way, I’d say this is the life of a real writer!! Can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks for reading, Brenda. I think it’s one of those boring “fear” things. I remember hearing a story whereby some fancypants best selling writers were all on a panel. They’d achieved the NY Times bestselling status, they’d been multi-published and were all moaning on about how they’d had success, sure…BUT, they hadn’t won the Pulitzer. The feeling comes from doing…all the other stuff is other people and how they see you. I will struggle continuously but the fact that YOU read is enough for me!

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Interview: Laura Munson, Author of the Memoir ‘This is Not the Story You Think It Is’

Laura Munson

I’ve written about my experience at my first writing retreat several times on this website. I’ve also written about taking risks and “thinking big.” Still, it took me months to work up the courage to email a best-selling author to ask her for an interview. She replied immediately, generously and enthusiastically. She never questioned my status as a “real writer” or warned me about adverbs. Thank you, Laura!

This interview was originally published on www.Blogcritics.org. Check out their website for the latest pop culture news.

Laura Munson 

Laura Munson is the New York Times and international best-selling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is (Putnam 2010) and founder of the acclaimed Haven Writing Retreat. Her essay in theNew York Times Modern Love Column was recently listed as #2 on The Ten Best Modern Love Columns Ever list (New York Times, December 19, 2014). Her work has also appeared in  the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, O. Magazine, The Week, Huffington Post, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping and More Magazine.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started writing?

I have written since I was little.  I was that kid with the flashlight under her covers or up in her treehouse, writing in a journal.  I have boxes of journals that go back to 4th grade.  That said, the things that come most naturally to us are often the things we ignore, so I put all my passion into theater and film in school until I took a screenplay elective and realized that I was a writer.  I started writing screenplays, switched quickly to fiction and memoir, and have been writing ever since with all my heart.  It’s an obsession, really.

What can you share about your current project?

I am working on several projects at the moment — a novel, a memoir, and a book about living a healthy, balanced writing life.  I also blog regularly for my Haven blog and the Huffington Post, and write personal essays for print and online magazines.  I’m all about process, and I try to always have something in the creation process, something in the submissions process, and hopefully…something in the publishing process.

Is there a theme or common thread that runs through your previous books? If so, is that intentional?

I like to write about the stuff people do to each other and how we grow from it — good, bad and ugly.  I’m fascinated by the facets of the human heart and how we survive this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called Life.  I also like to weave the subject of Home into my writing, both in the world and in ourselves.  And usually, since I live in Montana, there is an element of wilderness that finds its way into my stories, real or imagined — the wilderness of nature and of the Human Condition.  I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but it’s what comes out naturally, and I believe that when we tap into our natural flow, we are writing in communion with our best selves.

Do you derive creative satisfaction from other writing assignments that you may have for commercial purposes, i.e. magazine articles, essays, etc.? Is it the same as working on a memoir or novel? If not, how does it differ?

I only write what feels real and authentic to me, so whenever I have a writing “job” it’s always a perfect example of that quote: “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” I’m lucky that way. For a long, long time I didn’t get paid for my writing, and I didn’t let it stop me.  We must cultivate a hunger for our voice and once we do, the pay-off is immense. When we know our white-hot subjects, we attract writing projects/assignments which grow organically from what we have already put out there with past writing, so one honest, congruent piece begets another. At my Haven Writing Retreats, I work hard with people to find the subjects that are charged for them, and once they put their finger on the pulse of those themes and give themselves permission to write their way into them…that’s when things start cranking for people.  And there’s A LOT of satisfaction in that!

Who are your first readers — or do you share only with your agent/editor?

I have a strict protocol that I use for my early readers. The short version is: only give your stuff to people who really want to read it, who are relentless about asking you, have zero agenda, share your taste in books and writing in general, and will be honest. And set up a contract that works for you both to avoid awkward run-ins at the grocery store! That said, I love my agent and I trust her opinion with all my heart. Agents are very busy, and it’s in many ways a thankless job, so I only send it to her once I am SURE it is as good as I can get it and that usually means it’s been read by at least three people, and that I’m well into my third or fourth draft. The attitude that “an editor will fix all my issues” isn’t a good one to adopt. It’s the writer’s job to deliver as clean and alive a piece as possible and that takes work and time and a wide-open third eye.

Describe the difference in the feeling or emotion you receive from writing (the work) vs. publishing (the outcome).

The work: I love the journey. If you don’t love the journey, find something else that you love because it’s all about the journey. Delight in it, even and especially when it’s hard. Embrace the hardship! Breathe into the groundlessness of it.  Understand that all writing has an inherent problem and become the exact sleuth that will find the solution!

The published work: It’s between the published work and the reader at that point. It’s nice to be paid.  And it’s nice to have readers. Sometimes REALLY nice. But once your work is out there, it’s really none of your business anymore. It’s time to get back to the next writing journey!

One tip you think aspiring writers should consider ignoring?

Anything that starts with:  “10 easy steps…”  Or asks you to follow a method, a guru, or pay out a lot of money. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen and the guts to put your heart in your hand and translate thought into the form of heart language.  Sounds easy, huh.  It ain’t.  I wish someone had told me this a long time ago: You don’t have to do it alone!  Find a writing community.  Go on a Haven Retreat!

Where do you write? Special pen? Favorite chair? Beverage while writing, etc.?

I like to say that I’ve raised flexible children and a flexible muse. I’ve written on everything from cocktail napkins to fancy Italian leather-bound journals, from my laptop to my Mother-ship computer…in trains, planes, automobiles…you name it.  Lots of green tea with jasmine when writing. Sometimes wine while editing. Endless water. The muse really likes water, especially Montana well water.

Most unexpected experience bringing your first book to publication?

That would take a few hours. Suffice it to say that pretty much everything that has happened to me on the road of publication is totally outside of anything I ever read in any book about the publishing process. SO that’s good news. Know why you write, write, put it out there, and go back to writing. At a certain point, it’s a numbers game and all bets are off.  The only thing you can control is doing the work and submitting it.

Favorite book or author growing up?

Growing up, I loved anything with horses or nature in it. Now throw in a few derelicts on a hero’s journey who like good food, and I’m good to go. Which means, I really love Jim Harrison’s work.

Last “great” book you read?

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. She reminds me of the life that exists between the lines of prose.  You have to learn how to read those too…  Correction:  you GET to learn how to read those too. When you’re really doing the work, it’s all one big beautiful journey, even the hardship. Especially the hardship.

Update: I asked one follow-up question and here is Laura’s reply…

If you could give just one piece of advice or say one thing to writers at the start of their journey, what would it be?

Get clear about why you are writing in the first place.  Write a one line author statement.  Put it somewhere close by.  Refer to it often. Start it with:  “I write to…”  If you are clear about why you write, then no matter what happens along the way…you will always have your compass.  And it will help you do the work.  That’s all you can control: doing the work.  That’s good news!

You can find out more about Laura and Haven Writing Retreats by visiting her at www.lauramunson.com.

This is not the story you think it is

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How to Find a Writing Community

Finding a Writing Group
Finding a Writing Group

By Leesa from southtown, usa  Wikimedia Commons

You’re getting serious about this writing thing and you need to bounce ideas off someone. Your family’s eyes glaze over when you ask for their opinions on your new opening paragraph and your friends don’t understand why choosing a name for your main character is such a big deal. You need new people. Writing people. But how do you find them?

This was me last year. I was on the outside looking in and didn’t quite know where to start. I spent hours on various internet searches trying to find like-minded people. I’d like to save you some time.

While some websites like www.Meetup.com offer possibilities, the most promising options come from other social connections. In other words…it helps if you “know a guy.”

Hints for finding your community…

Take a class – Ask the students and teacher for recommendations and introductions. You chose the same class and have at least that in common. The teacher has some level of expertise which promises a wider circle of contacts. A good teacher will know the importance of a community and will want good word of mouth about the class. She will want to help.

Haven Writing Retreat

Photo by Author and Haven Host Laura Munson

Go to conferences/retreats – This works much like a class but in a more concentrated and often more intense environment. You can’t be a hermit though. Take down email addresses and cell phone numbers and reach out after you return home. Before I submitted my essay to Chicken Soup for the Soul, a fellow writer I met at a retreat ‘read it and offered invaluable feedback.

Hire a coach/mentor – Most offer a free consultation. A coach can be a sounding board for your writing goals, story ideas, or even help you conquer self-doubt.

All of the above require an investment of both time and money. If writing is your passion, you’re worth it.

Low-cost and free options also exist.

If coaching or classes are out of your financial reach, consider your local library. Many offer free monthly writing groups. These may have members at all different levels of skill or commitment. I found my first paid writing gig through the leader of my local library’s writing group.

Tell everyone you know that you’re a writer. Your friends and relatives have circles of people in all walks of life. Writers are a helpful bunch. A dear college friend introduced me to her cousin, a journalist. We met for coffee and she ended up passing on my name to her editor. A few months later, I was hired to do a freelance piece for their paper.

Social media is free and full of writers. It can be a huge time-suck so beware. If you’re disciplined and enjoy Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – search their writing groups. Most have writers at all levels (both traditionally and self-published) who are happy to answer questions, suggest critique websites, or just boost your spirits on a tough writing day.

Websites like www.Scribophile.com and Women Writers, Women’s Books offer  active communities with opportunities to share work or even contribute content.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Writing can be lonely – but it doesn’t have to be. Finding a writing group or community requires that you take risks. The rewards are incisive feedback, links to opportunities, and old-fashioned friendship. Where did you find your people? If you have some hints or shortcuts not mentioned here, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

4 Thoughts on “How to Find a Writing Community

  1. Great post. Yes, we writers need writers. I don’t think there are any shortcuts as what we need is to build trusting relationships where we feel safe to share our work and receive constructive criticism. Trust takes time to build.

    • Thanks so much for reading. Couldn’t agree more about your point on trusting. Writing makes us vulnerable and we need to feel that it’s a good fit before we can share.

  2. I love Women Writers, Women’s Books! I have been keeping in touch with this group, led by the fabulous Barbara Bos, on Facebook. What a fun group of amazing women who happen to be writers. They help me feel less alone as I am busy writing away. Thank you for posting this. I did attend a writing critique group for a while at a local library and I loved it, I’m just so busy writing that I haven’t gone back yet. I’m also fortunate to get lots of support from others in my writing adventure. Happy writing, everyone!

    • Barbara has been an inspiration! The main website is full of inspirational and informative pieces designed to help every level of writer. Like you, I love the support on the Facebook page. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated – Best of luck with your writing!

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What I Learned at my Writing Retreat – on Women Writers, Women’s Books

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One of my favorite websites for writers just published my essay on Haven Retreats.

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If you haven’t read Laura Munson’s book This is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, you should download immediately!  Laura leads these beautiful groups in the Montana mountains and….well….you can read about my experience here.

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Check out the website for both – endless resources and a bountiful wealth for writers and readers.

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