Connecting with other writers makes you a better writer, but establishing a network can sometimes be hard. I’ve found my writer friends either directly or indirectly because I was an English major and worked at a writing center. I’ve seen listicles and articles that give tips about finding writing groups and/or other writers – but most of those assume the reader feels comfortable approaching strangers in coffee shops or attending readings or other events alone.
If you’re like me (i.e., awkward, shy, anxious), it may not sound appealing to aggressively pursue writerly relationships. And, if you aren’t in a place where there are many writers about (ex. college), it may seem intimidating to seek out other people who want to read and share their writing. I have a few ideas about how to find other writers (but yes, some of them include approaching strangers).
First, let me tell you about the two main types of relationships I rely on. Groups (large or small), workshops, or partnerships can be useful in different cases – depending on your style of writing, what you’re working on, and what kind of relationship you’re looking for (like regular submissions, people to write with, and so forth).
I’m not going to lie: my writing group is pretty damn amazing. I don’t imagine that all writing groups are as amazing (and I’ve heard some horror stories about some of them), but they can be incredibly valuable for writers.
My friend and writing buddy Emily Fisk has an excellent post (available here) about starting a writing group, so that can be a good option if you know of (or can find) some like-minded writers who are interested in forming a group. Her post also explains how our group functions.
In addition to that group, my graduate cohort met once a week during the last year of our program, and that was a valuable group at that time. We typically just used the time to work on the writing we needed to, but we also talked through ideas and/or submitted work when needed.
If you don’t want to start a group, you can try to find local groups through your library, college campus, or social media (more on that later!). PRO TIP: If it doesn’t feel right, find a new group. You won’t get anything out of it if the other group members aren’t serious, suck at giving feedback, or are jerks.
Writing groups are good for:
- Commiserating & socializing
- Ongoing support & accountability
- Diverse feedback
My best advice is to find as many writers to connect with as you possibly can. Knowing more writers gives you the possibility of forming partnerships for different situations.
This summer, I’m meeting with a writer friend every week for some intensive writing and feedback. We’re both former writing center consultants, so we’ve taken that approach to our meetings – one of us submits each week, and we use our meeting time to talk only about the submitter’s work. She is working on a book and I’m revising several short pieces, so we adapt each meeting based on the writer’s needs for that particular submission.
I’ve also met with writer friends less consistently for other things. I might meet someone for coffee and we’ll spend an hour writing, then talk about what we’re working on, or share something we’d like feedback on.
Writing partnerships are useful for:
- Working through several versions of a draft
- Working on longer projects (like a book)
- Having designated time to write
- Longer conversations about your work
Finding Other Writers
As I mentioned, writing groups offer incredibly useful resources and long-term support and friendship. But, if you are struggling to find your kindred spirits, here are a few ideas on how to locate other writers.
Take a Writing Course or Workshop
Maybe it seems obvious, but the best advice I can give is to go to a place where other people want to write. Those places, specifically designed for people who want to write, will give you several opportunities to find a writing buddy, network with other writers, and/or form a valuable writerly relationship.
Here are some ideas:
- Enroll in a writing course/workshop in your genre of choice through your local university or community college
- Take a workshop through your local center for writers (in Boise, there’s The Cabin)
- Apply for a residential workshop or retreat. NOTE: some are expensive, but I’ve seen several that offer scholarships
- Join a MOOC (massive online open course). These are free, and there are some pretty cool ones out there. This summer, for instance, University of Iowa offered two MOOCs on writing about social issues and identities. In these courses, participants interact with each other and with instructors, and many (like, A LOT) are looking for writing partners. There are discussion boards dedicated to every type of writing and writing relationship you can imagine.
Find Local Artist Collectives
Writers often hang out with other artists, and artists in general are pretty great at forming alliances and supporting one another. Look for local artist collectives online or in person and watch your network expand.
Utilize Social Media
Social media is a godsend for introverts. There are a ton of hashtags, Facebook groups, and more devoted to uniting writers. Here is a list of the most common hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. Search Facebook for writing groups. Contact some bloggers you admire and see if they are looking for a writing buddy, or if they have suggestions for writing communities. Or, start a writing blog, and connect with other bloggers.
Visit a Writing Center
Writing centers are magical places. If you missed out on visiting one in college, you should check to see if they allow alumni to have appointments. Or, see if there is a community writing center in your city (like the awesome Salt Lake Community Writing Center). These are excellent places to get feedback, meet other writers, and get information about resources for writers.
Do you have any other tips for building a network of writers? Let me know in the comments!