A couple years ago I moved from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. (What can I say, I like Portlands!) But despite the identical names, they’re very different cities. I’d been in Oregon for a decade, spent much of that time immersed in the various writing and music scenes, made good friends, and felt well-supported within those communities. Then suddenly I’m in this new place on the other side of the continent with no literary connections — and having to use GPS to get around town too. Ugh!
So I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past two years about literary community, what it means to build or join a community of writers, and why it’s crucial to be a part of such a community. I’ve also done a lot of reaching out; I’ve attended many readings; I’ve joined a writing group that meets monthly; and what do you know, slowly but surely I’ve become a part of a new community of Maine writers that I turn to for mentorship, feedback, or just to grab a drink and talk about books we love.
The solitude that people often experience when they move to a new town can be great for writing. You can be a lot more productive when your social options are limited. But at some point every writer craves that sense of community, or what Daryl Rothman calls a “literary network of resources, opportunity and mutual support which can help take your writing and publishing dreams to the next level.”
In his recent guest post for The Creative Penn called “Building a Literary Community: Why and How,” Rothman qualifies the stereotype of the solitary writer. “Yes, you must be your own best marketer and advocate, but no one of us can do it alone.”
We often think of ourselves that way, though: the individual writer wrestling with the muse. Even if you’re surrounded by family and friends in a familiar city, writing can be lonely, solitary work. But if you feel like you’ve been trying to “do it alone” for too long, maybe it’s time to come up for air. Maybe it’s time to search for or create a community of writers, even if its not face-to-face (plenty of strong literary communities have been built and maintained online).
How to join or start your own literary community
Here are four articles that will help you find or establish that literary support system:
How did you get established in a literary community? What challenges have you been able to meet with the help of other writers? Let us know in the comments section below.
Lead image is the writer’s wall at the Bostonian Cafe, Creative Commons licensed by Tjook.