Community in the Wilderness: Searching for a Writer’s Group in the Wilds of the Web

“Why did you start a blog?”

It’s a question I get asked periodically by people who don’t write blogs. The honest answer is “platform”. It’s one of those buzzwords you can’t escape if you go to conferences, subscribe to newsletters, and generally stay abreast of the latest in writing and publishing. You hear it often enough that you begin to feel inadequate or inauthentic as a writer if you don’t have one. So, kicking and screaming I began a blog that focuses on fairy tales. It made the best sense because the YA series I’m working on is based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

At first, it was a chore. I agonized over the About Me section, trying to sounds both informative and pithy enough that other people would want to read it. I tried to look at it as my “trial by fire” because whatever I wrote would immediately be critiqued. At least that’s what I thought until I realized how hard it is to make your lone voice heard in the cacophony that is the blogosphere. But even when I wasn’t read, I felt as though each posting was a courageous effort to put myself out there–proof I was a writer each time I clicked Publish.

My best day was when, out of nowhere, a random person started following by blog. My initial reaction was, “Why are you following me?” But soon that gave way to real happiness and a renewed optimism in this process. Maybe blogging could be rewarding. Maybe I could grow to love it. Well, I was happy that I could at least find times to like it.

I kept writing. I also kept blogging and reveled in every new follower. I would post and click (too often) on the Stats page to see if my post was being viewed. Often I would be disappointed by the turnout. Sometimes I was surprised by what really got people’s attention. Nevertheless, I continued hoping to find the magic recipe of topic and writing that would make readers want another helping. Then I fell into what all bloggers can attest to.

Call it Blogger’s Blahs or Poster’s Paralysis, but I felt discouraged by the lack of interest and my lack of ideas. It came in waves, and then the Blahs ebbed because a new reader joined or a new comment would buoy me. The realization was almost anti-climactic. What I really wanted was not readership, I wanted community.

Deen Village Scotland

My search takes me everywhere

Blogs about how to find a writer’s group or a critique circle are endless. They have stories of writer’s being bestowed with the friendship of like-minded writers like the Commandments. It all sounds so warm and inviting, a stark contrast to the solitary clicking of cold computer keys. You’re encouraged to branch out, make connections, join clubs and all will fall into place. Well, after a few hits and misses and, just like the querying process, you’ll find the perfect match for you. It’s like blind group dating or “Naked and Afraid” writer’s edition.

My attempts to find my tribe have been mixed. I have one writer friend who is very dedicated to helping me with my writing and we’ve forged a friendship of respect and reciprocity that makes me believe in serendipity. But you learn early on that you need lots of eyes on your work.
The rest of my circle (non-writers all) have fallen away, unable to keep up with the back and forth of rewrites. For once I could say without fear of sounding clichéd—It’s a writer thing, you wouldn’t understand. So, my search continues. Blogs exist to create a virtual community, but eventually virtual isn’t enough.

Why did I start a blog? The short answer is to find more readers, but now I know it’s really to find more writers.

Why did you start a blog? Is it the same reason you keep blogging?

No Excuses…On with the Show

When I made the decision to become a writer, I made an interesting discovery. Lots of people in my life and some new acquaintances voiced the same desire. However, they didn’t have anything written down. Or they had an idea which they haven’t resolved. Or…the list goes on and on. This really bugged me–like people who use the elevator to go up one flight at the gym. Nothing brought this home to me more like the one and only episode of “Girls” I watched. (To my contemporaries, I apologize for having no interest in this series to which I’m supposed to watch like the Gospels.)

It was the pilot episode. To sum it up the lead Girl wants to be a writer and lives in New York City, which is beyond expensive, but she makes no money. She’s still an intern and when her parents tell her she’s cut off so they can actually enjoy themselves she throws a hissy-fit. Being on this side of thirty I no longer commiserate with Girl and now root for the parents. And no, I don’t feel old–just really peeved that my mother’s “wait and see” was more prophesy than idle rant. Anyway, at some point she shows up at her parents’ hotel to show them the book she’s working on. And it’s a mess! Jots and doodles on 10 pages about who knows what and the parents are thoroughly underwhelmed. I was, too. Maybe it’s harsh, but come on? That makes you a writer? No wonder you can’t get respect for calling yourself one unless you’re published.

Now, I’ve been a blogger for almost a year and I’ll admit it’s gotten away from me a times. As the title of the post says, no excuses, so I won’t bore you with details that will make you sympathetic to my plight. I have been working on a novel (two in fact), but this blog is my exercise. It’s like having a thriving business, but not being bothered to work on the accounts. It catches up to you. I refuse to let this blog become a New Year’s resolution that only makes it to March. Go to the gym, eat better, oh and use your blog to actually blog! So to that end, next week I will publish a short story about my take on the 12 Dancing Princesses (It also proves I have been writing, just not blogging).

I still don’t like “Girls” and I think people are too quick to say they want to write, too. But instead of griping about it, I’ll just get on with my blogging.