Just this week I was talking to a good writing friend. She is successful. Her books are brilliant and award-winning. Yet she feels very alone in her journey.
As I was chatting with her, I knew she was not alone. So many writers are naturally introverted. As such, they can attend meetings and feel disconnected. They join the right groups and still feel alone. That makes me so sad. Yet I know it can be hard -- especially when you feel like you have reached out and that didn't go the way you had hoped or expected.Tweet: Long 4 writing friends? @cara_putman gives 5 ways + 2 bonus. #amwriting http://ctt.ec/8P3AU+
There is a vibrant writing community. I've found it through places like the Writers Alley. But I don't want you to struggle and feel isolated and alone. Here are a few suggestions to try if you feel like everyone else has a writing community, and you just can't quite crack the code.
1) Pray. Seriously. There have been several periods in my writing journey when I felt isolated. The first when I was a brand spanking newbie. Then there was the I've graduated to published, but sure don't feel published me. Then there was the I'm multi-published and still feel like an outsider. Each time I asked God if I could have a community. People who get me. He has answered that prayer. Many times. In each season. More on that below.
2) Reach out to others. My friend is doing this. Just about everyone I was going to connect her with, she's already in relationship with. As you are willing to reach out to others, you may find that they hunger for more than surface social media friendship, too. The way our lives go right now, it is all too easy to do everything online. It can be good - I love staying in touch with people from across the country and world, but it can be terribly superficial, too. So when you can build on face-to-face opportunities. Use social media to stay in contact, but cherish those in person moments.
3) Recognize you will different levels of relationships. Now hang with me a minute. When you're praying ask God to give you people newer in the writing journey than you, at your level, and then mentors. Each are incredibly valuable. When you're starting out you desperately need people slogging through the day to day of writing a book. Join groups like ACFW to find them. But don't stay there. As your writing matures, make sure you are looking for people who are now in those beginning stages. Be willing to pour into their learning and careers. That's how I know most of the gals from the Writers Alley. It's so exciting to watch their journeys turn into published books as they do the work. Which leads to the last category. We all need mentors. People who are further down the road. People who can encourage us and if we're willing teach us. Which leads to...
4) If you want to be mentored, be teachable. Listen to what your mentor is saying. Pray over it and apply what fits. But recognize they are sharing what they know. If they choose to share it with you, it is a gift. It means they see something in you they want to be part of developing. They want to help you succeed. It doesn't mean every piece of advice will fit perfectly. But keep a teachable spirit, or you'll find they move on to someone who is interested and teachable.
5) Don't take a "rejection" personally. Most of the time it isn't meant that way. The other person may simply be strapped for time. They may be out of margin and protecting their writing time. Maybe they have a new baby, a new job, personal crisis. Extend grace and ask God to lead you to someone who can work.
Two bonus suggestions:
6) Recognize there are seasons to relationships. In late 2008 (I think!) I attended a writing seminar. It was intimate, and the relationships we formed in that small group, led to a desire to continue online. For several years this group of ladies plus two were incredibly tight. We laughed together, prayed together, moaned about life together. And then our lives changed. Some left publishing. Some changed jobs. Life changed. We are still friends and can reach out together, but it is not the same flurry of emails and communication that it used to be. That's okay. We were what we were supposed to be at that time in our lives.
7) Be willing to be the one who reaches out and asks. A couple years ago I felt God very specifically tell me it was time to form another group similar to that yet different. This time I was reaching out to and asking seven other authors I really respect whether they would want to come into community with me. It was scary. I fully expected some of them to say no, because to me they were already in vibrant writing communities. Yet they all said yes, because they each had that same heart cry for community. This group is different than the first, yet it is just as rich. In fact, we're the Grove Girls. I'm in several others like that. Each with a unique purpose and mission. Each started because somebody was willing to risk. Maybe today it's your day.
An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.