Some days it feels like I’m the only writer I know, and that’s … terrible.
It’s not true, of course. But still.
I am the only “serious” writer in my family, the only one who writes almost daily and gets paid to do it. It’s very difficult to explain to them why my schedule isn’t ‘normal,’ why I spend so much time thinking and not a lot of time speaking, why I work on weekends, why I need plans to be made in advance.
I also have a lot of friends who try their best to “get me” and simply don’t understand why I’m the way I am. I love these people and wouldn’t trade them for anything. But every time “I need to stay in tonight and get some work done” is met with an “OK” text or an eye roll, I get discouraged. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with you. I just can’t right this minute …
I even worry about having my own family and figuring out how to balance my creative projects with everything else. This is not a struggle unique to writing by any means, but there was a time when I dreamed of pairing up with a musician or designer or even a fellow writer who understood my nontraditional habits and quirks as well as I understood theirs. Will I be happy with someone who doesn’t reside in a mind similar to my own?
The fact that I worry about how everyone else reacts to my writing lifestyle obviously says a lot about my priorities, I know. I tell you all the time to stop caring about what other people think, and here I am frustrated about being a writer because the people around me don’t understand this. I never said I was perfect, now did I?
But then there are the people I’ve met through my work who DO understand. Something magical happens when a bunch of creative-minded people come together. It’s sort of like magic. We sync, somehow. When one of us is frustrated about something, we all empathize and mirror those frustrations. When one of us publishes something cool or figures out something that kept them stuck, we all remember when these things have happened to us and we’re SO EXCITED for them.
This must be why so many people attend writing conventions, groups, classes, and more. Surrounding yourself with people who “get it” seems to make everything more manageable. Plus, when one of you “can’t hang out” because you need to write, everyone grabs their laptops and you all meet at the library or a coffee shop and work on different things all while gathered in a common space.
My favorite time of year is still November, because the NaNoWriMo forums and Twitter are buzzing with “writer-isms” and questions and stories and prompts. It’s so comforting to hear about what other writers are struggling with, because it makes you feel like you’re not alone. Heck, that’s why I started this blog in the first place. I started telling people what I found most difficult about the writing life, and all the responses were some version of — and still are — “YES! THIS IS TOTALLY ME! YOU GET ME!!!”
I DO get you! Writing is hard but so awesome but also AAAAAHHH!!!!!!!
Writing communities can be distracting and not always the most positive places to be, sure. That’s the case with any group you’re a part of.
But in many ways, they’re also essential for writing survival. Writing can make you feel amazing and excited and ALIVE, but it can also leave you feeling empty and sad and discouraged.
And that’s just the WRITING part of writing. Being a writer also requires so much time and effort and emotional energy. You can’t just sit alone in your office and write all day. You have to form and maintain relationships, take care of yourself, take care of other people (or pets), participate in society. Live and thrive in the real world despite spending half your time in a fictional one.
You need support. Someone or somewhere you can vent to. A place where you can say, “I had a really bad writing experience,” and talk about it. Or a safe place you can say, “I met a huge goal and I can’t believe it!” and there will be people there to congratulate you and lift you up.
Where you find “your people” really depends on where you like or prefer to hang out. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to discover a community of writers you can fit perfectly into. In person. Online. With a few other people. With thousands. As long as it’s a positive place to be, and it’s not taking you away from your actual work, it’s going to help you deal with all the “writing things” that writers really can’t talk about anywhere else.
And I hope this blog is a positive, safe place for you to share your thoughts and connect with each other. I am, and probably always will be, the worst when it comes to responding in a timely manner to comments, but it’s something I’m working on.
Just know I do see your words, I’m listening, and I am always here to help, offer some kind words, or somehow otherwise validate your feelings in the moment.
Writing is tough. But you’re not in this thing alone.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.