August 21st, 2020

The Vital Importance of Your Writing Community

by John Peragine

These last few weeks have been one of the most trying times of my life. Covid-19 has been this constant cloud that hovers over the most inane tasks of ordinary life. Heaped on top of this is the political divide happening in America and the ongoing fight for freedom and rights. Though these issues have weighed heavy on my heart the last few months, nothing has been as crushing as these last two weeks.

First, my twenty-two-year-old daughter became very ill. She had been living on her own and preparing to go back to school this fall. Since her illness began, she has been in the hospital five times and moved back home.

Then the Midwest derecho happened on August 10th. In about fifteen minutes, the derecho pounded through with 120 mile-an-hour sustained winds and flattened trees all around us. Cell phone towers went down, as did the power and our Internet. We remained that way for over a week.

Many people have had it much worse than us but my purpose in sharing this story is to illuminate the one thing that got me through with my sanity and soul intact: my writing community.

My Writing Community Is a Godsend

I needed help, and they responded. And I am so grateful. I was scheduled earlier this month to post a blog, and with a text, my good friend Jenny switched with me. I have had writer friends call me, write to me, send me letters, and Zoom with me. They shared the burden of my work and lent an ear when I needed it.

Creating a writing community around you helps you in so many ways because we are all in this together.

Our work is done inside our heads. Writing the words down is a consequence of the worlds we build in our dreams. Writers' greatest accomplishments happen in total isolation. Because of this, we want…no…we need connections with others just like us.

Sure, I have a loving family and non-writer friends, and they often nod and do their best to support me. But they don't always 'get' me. A writer understands the emotional angst of another writer.

In the middle of the night, I can send out a sentence I'm stuck on to a writer pal, and within minutes I receive a response. My own biological family doesn't even do that!

Tips for Building a Writing Community

1. You offer yourself first. You ask what you can do for other writers you meet. They may not take your offer right away, but they will remember your generosity. One day, you will get an email, humble in its construction, asking for the help you offered months and even years prior.

2. You become active in the writing community. You show up and pay forward the help others have given you, whether it is writing on a blog like WITS or offering to look over someone's opening lines. Being part of a writing community is about service and what you offer to others.

3. Create a Writing Support Group

The reason several current contributing authors are here on Writers in the Storm is because of a Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference from four years ago where I met Eldred, Jenny, Kris, and Miffie. I suggested we begin a writer's group online and we, along with Ellen Buikema, have met weekly ever since.

It is not a traditional writing/critique group. It is mostly a check-in on how our writing (and more importantly, how our lives) are going. We encourage each other to write more and pursue our career goals, and some amazing things have occurred. Most of us have had books completed and published. We have grown as writers together. We have become friends for life.

4. Offer What You Know

I have a mantra that I live by, especially when it comes to other writers:

I give away what I know,
I get paid for what I do.

I have a few years of experience as a writer, and I am willing to share whatever I know (or think I know). I crave connecting with and helping other writers. Rather than monetizing it, I offer it freely with the hope someone will use it to become more successful.

This isn't to knock the writing teachers out there. That is their job and they should be compensated for it. But I get paid for writing and editing. I'm lucky...I have no need to make money off my writing community.

The Astounding Generosity of My Writing Community

As I mentioned earlier, the generosity of my writing community has been astonishing. I never expected anything like the outpouring of support they have gifted me with while I was down. I am genuinely humbled. I know this is not the typical blog post you might expect at Writers In the Storm, but I felt compelled to share something positive in these sometimes dark times.

I appreciate every one of you.

Writers are so vital in this time of strife and fear. Through our fingertips, we can create beautiful worlds, words of hope, words of love, and create a better tomorrow. Keep writing my friends. And remember to reach out to the writer friends in your community. We can all use a good word and the reminder that we are together in this!

P.S. My daughter is doing better, my power and Internet are back, my coffee maker works, and I have ice for my whiskey. All is right in my corner of the world again.

How has your writing community supported you on your journey? Are there any moments that stand out for you? What are doing for your fellow writers? Please share your stories with us down in the comments!

*  *  *  *  *  *

About John

John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine EnthusiastGrapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.

John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, will be released Spring 2021. https://www.facebook.com/twilightdjinn/

21 responses to “The Vital Importance of Your Writing Community”

  1. John - most importantly - your daughter is better, and hopefully that means "well." And I get it - all of it. I "became" a writer only four years ago when I left work on medical leave. The online writing community I slowly discovered plugged the holes of all the relationships I lost. Individuals I'd never met in person checked in with me more often than extended family. Recently, I banded together with five other memoirists from all over the country in a Zoom critique group, and I can tell them things, knowing they'd understand, I'd only tell my closest friends. I'm so glad you had that kind of support when you needed it. And I'm so glad you again have power and coffee and ice for your whiskey. You also have a whole new font of writing material!

  2. Ellen says:

    We are all in this together. Isn't that the truth?!

    I am forever grateful for my Writer family.

    At the first meeting of writers I attended I received an interesting piece of advice. "Be as helpful as possible." That is what I aspire to do.

    Thank goodness your daughter is feeling better and electricity is back! Midwest summers without power are dreadful. Cheers!

  3. Terry Odell says:

    So sorry for all your troubles, but so glad you have the support that's needed. My writing would never have progressed beyond, "Hey, this is fun" to a "career" if not for my first writing group. Great that you have your vital necessities back (although I prefer my whiskey neat).

    • John Peragine says:

      If I have a really nice aged whiskey - I drink it neat! You all on this blog are part of my writing community as well!

  4. Thank you for this post. I'm forever grateful for my writing community and their constant support.

    I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, "Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss." I'm sure you have earned a masters degree these past few weeks.

    I'm glad your life is slipping back into order, and your daughter is on the mend.

    Also, I'm thinking we might need to start a sub-group for writers who drink whiskey. I like mine with ice, but I'll drink it neat too!

    • John Peragine says:

      Yes- perhaps a PHD even. I do host a every other Friday zoom- drinking call with other writers... if you are interested!

  5. Eldred Bird says:

    If not for the connections I've made in the writing community, I wouldn't be where I am today. I owe a lot to my critique group, but also John as well. He forced this introvert out his shell at that first conference. He literally took my business cards out of my hand and started handing them out and making me talk to people. Kind of a shock therapy but it worked. It was through his efforts that I met Jenny and the rest of the Wednesday night crew. That led to the opportunity to share with everyone here at WITS.

    Oh, and I'm a whisky drinker too. Just give me a good Irish whisky, no ice, and I'm a happy boy!

  6. Jacquolyn McMurray says:

    So glad your daughter is feeling better. Thank goodness for technology that has allowed me to keep meeting with my writing group. And after years of benefitting from more experienced writers, I'm now able to support some new writers with a bit of coaching. I love that you've reminded us to pay it forward. Knowledge is meant to be shared.

    • John Peragine says:

      Yes I always try to pay it forward. It is how we raise our entire writing community- and in times in which we live- we need a boost!

  7. Kris Maze says:

    Well put, John! This importance of a writing community cannot be understated and I agree few outside of this rag-tag group of wordsmiths understands the cognitive and emotional load going into the writing process.

    Thanks for your vision for the Wednesday Group! We all should toast to that!

    • John Peragine says:

      It's really interesting- my vision originally was more of a critique group- but I stepped aside and it grew into something way greater than I could have dreamed! You all are awesome!

  8. Brad says:

    I’m glad everything is better with you and your family. I always look forward to and appreciate your posts.
    Can drinkers of infused vodka join the group? 🙂 L’chaim!
    Cheers!
    Brad

  9. barbdelong says:

    Thank you so much for this post, John! My most positive thoughts go out to your daughter on her recovery. These are scary times, and I'm also grateful for my writing communities. I have at least four and some members intersect with one or more groups, but all are the most supportive people I know, and not just for writing. They helped me focus on my writing when I felt I could just-not-write-another-word, and get my whole draft done and out to a professional editor and beta readers. Even though I don't contribute to WITS, I consider those who do and those who comment part of my community. You are appreciated.

  10. dholcomb1 says:

    So sorry to hear all you have been through. Glad to hear most of it has resolved. Hope your daughter continues to improve.

    For the most part, I have a give and take in my writing community. I wish I had a bigger circle, but what I have is good for now. Having skills with SM and having unique knowledge in a particular subject has given me some paid gig work.

    denise

  11. jeanne kern says:

    Thank goodness for coffee, ice, internet--and health! And thank you for great comments.

  12. Amorina Rose says:

    I think your idea is a great. Some writer friends and I are trying the same thing. I have also followed you on twitter. I like supporting people willing to support others.

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