I took up a swimming challenge at our local YMCA in January, and I’ve had plenty of time while plowing through the H2O to contemplate. One of the things that came to me recently – and which I did not anticipate – was what swimming (or any solitary sport), writing, and faith have in common.
Did you notice the word solitary? Swimming is singularly solitary, because your face is in the water and the opportunities for interaction are pretty limited. This is true for writing, minus the face-in-water part. It’s an internal activity. Faith comes down to one’s core beliefs, which is, by definition, extremely individual.
What I never expected to discover with swimming is community – and yet it is there. Maggie, Ann, and Linda show up at roughly the same times I do for laps. They bring smiles, enthusiasm, and energy which all rub off on me. (Hopefully, I bring the same to them!) They also challenge me to do more than I ever thought possible, both in distance and in perseverance.
This is what a faith community does for us, as well. While we are responsible for nurturing our own growth, its potential is exponentially expanded when we share our faith with each other, and deepened when we gather to worship as community.
Writing communities can be powerful agents of support and encouragement, too. Because of the solitary nature of writing, it’s important to connect with other writers, whether through online venues such as Catholic Writers Guild, or through face-to-face opportunities.
So how is one to find these opportunities? The question of finding critique partners has come up a few times recently in the CWG blog. It’s not always an easy question to answer. The first step is to find writing groups. You’re here, so you’ve discovered this wonderful community. There are some forums for critique groups; check them out and see if they are a good fit. Also, participate in the live and online Catholic Writers Guild conferences whenever possible, and consider saving up for the annual writing retreat. Opportunities abound within this group!
Beyond CWG, check with your library or a nearby college for local groups. Google writers, authors, or writing groups in your area. (I recently found two groups in my area that I had no idea existed; you might be surprised!) Attend a local or regional writing conference, even if it’s not in your genre. You might connect with another author and decide to trade manuscripts for critique. Sometimes critiques are raffled off as writing fundraisers, or are offered as an extra benefit at a workshop. While this last idea isn’t as likely to result in long-term relationships, you will get some insight on how to improve your writing.
Many special interest associations exist, and most have local chapters. Check out American Christian Fiction Writers (which is focused on the Inspirational market and has a slightly different audience than the Catholic Writers Guild), Sisters in Crime (misters are welcome to join), or Romance Writers of America®. RWA® has a wide variety of online special interest chapters, one of which might address your genre, although all are focused on writing some variation of a Happy-Ever-After ending. Mystery Writers of America has an associate membership level for unpublished writers. SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, is a gold mine of information for writers of children’s and young adult literature.
You might want to try out Critique.org, an online group that runs on critique exchange. No cost is involved, other than your time in exchange for someone else’s. Or consider an online writing class. One of my critique partners built a years-long critique relationship with a fellow writer she has never met in person. You can find class offerings on Announceonlinewritingclasses, a yahoo group. (Be judicious. When I first discovered online classes, I signed up for several at the same time, not realizing how much time and energy they can take. The cost adds up, too, but if you only sign up for the ones that really apply to your interests and level of expertise, it’s possible to develop a critique relationship with a like-minded author.)
For more on critique and critique groups, see my CWG post from May 22, 2012.
How have you found a writing community that meets your needs? How did you find Catholic Writers Guild? My guess is that many of us came from other groups; share what was best about them!