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.
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!
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.
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!
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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 Enthusiast, Grapevine 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/
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