The Importance of community

Posted by Chris Rosser on Mon 01 July 2019
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Writing is a lonely business. The act require hours, upon hours of solitude spent labouring to create, revise and edit a story. Many writers feel isolated knowing that often of those in their life do not understand our pursuit of this craft. Writing changes you, and writers experience the world differently. We reflect, we observe the tiniest details, get hung on the shape and meaning of things. Many people think they can write, think it's easy, until they sit down to do it themselves. Most of those who start to write a book will give up, and talent is no indication of success or even staying power.

As a parent, I've heard the adage, 'it takes a village to raise a child'. It's very true, and as a writer I certainly know that a supportive village can certainly help with nurturing a book. Writing is about sharing experience, and experience is enhanced through belonging to a community.

It takes a village to raise a child...a supportive village can certainly help with nurturing a book.

Today, there's no shortage of ways you can communicate. I'm part of a vibrant, welcoming and fun writing community on Twitter. There are similar experiences to be found on Facebook, with writing groups catering to almost every genre and sub-genre imaginable. I've formed terrific friendships with other writers all over the world -- people who understand the craft, and the effort, and all too often, the heartache of pursuing this vocation. Social media has proved invaluable to me, having struggled to find local writing support groups, even in a city as large as Melbourne.

Yet, I was reminded today of my earliest years as a writer -- before Twitter, Facebook, and even before I had the guts to start a blog, much less publish a book. Last night, a young man aspiring to blog and write novels reached out to me asking to talk about writing. He learnt of me through his mother, who briefly worked with my wife. I was both humbled and delighted by the chance to pay forward, not only my successes, but to honour those who had helped me. The early years were a struggle, filled with disappointments and setbacks, as I took my first steps on this very uncertain path. The pain was lessened by those around me. Community is important, yet it's often so easy to overlook those communities that don't reside in a virtual world of 1s and 0s, and that's a shame.

The pain was lessened by those around me.

In my early twenties, I went through something of a crisis. For much of my youth, I aspired to an academic career, but half-way through my first degree and I knew it wasn't for me. My true calling was writing, a feeling that bloomed slowly from my teenage years until it burned with a fury I couldn't quench. It wasn't easy admitting this, and I fought against it longer than I should have. It the people in my life who helped me negotiate those difficult days.

I've never been mentored, part of me wonders what that would have been like. Yet, I can certainly name those figures in formative years who've made an impression, offered encouragement, given praise when merited, and support when needed. Authors I've met, such as Margaret Geddes and Michael Pryor (who I continue to banter with on Twitter), and even the late and dearly missed Sir Terry Pratchett. Scholars like Barry Collett, Ann Trindade, Jenny Lee and Mark Davis. The spheres of community is vital to that, these were people I met through personal connections, university or by simply taking an opportunity when presented, and I'm grateful beyond words for my experiences.

A lot's happened, to me and the publishing industry, since I shared a meal with Margaret Geddes in my future mother-in-law's kitchen so many years ago. I gained and lost representation by literary agent Jacinta di Mase. I lived abroad and travelled the world. I watched in astonishment as Amazon made traditional publishing obsolete over night. I've become a husband and dad. I've built a successful, professional writing career. My blog gets more visitors had any right to expect and I've published two fantasy books, with my third and fourth well on the way.

What's not changed, is the need for community, in every endeavour. Large or small, virtual or face-to-face. I've made valuable friendships the world over: writers and readers alike, and from the most unexpected quarters far removed from Australia's shores. Without them, without that community, I'd have given up.

What's not changed, is the need for community.

My parting thoughts are simple: embrace community. If you are just starting, don't be afraid to reach out. If you're well on your way, don't be a douche and pull up the ladder behind you -- grab hold when someone reaches out. A little kindness and encouragement goes a long way.

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash.

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