It takes a village to raise a child. “Ora na azu nwa”
It’s a Nigerian proverb, originating with the Igbo culture, which literally means that it takes an entire village (or community) to raise a child. And what are our stories, our novels, our poems and articles if not our children? Unruly at times. Carefree and innocent at others. They are born of a union between our imagination and our desire to write.
We bring them into the literary world, holding their hands when it’s time to face the world. We stand and watch as proud parents, biting our lip if they scrape their knee on a bad review or beaming when they awarded and recognized. Ultimately, they are our responsibility and we love them dearly.
However, it takes a village…writing is no easy task. It’s not a team relay, it’s a cross-country race. It’s grueling, it’s lonely at times, and it requires an unbelievable amount of dedication and perseverance. The rewards can be awesome, whether that be recognition in the form of publication credits, book deals or favorable reviews. Even the personal satisfaction of individual pride makes the creative process worth it. It is a lot of work and yet I would not trade it for anything. I don’t think I could…I think it’s in my blood and I have to. But, I don’t have to do it alone.
None of us have to do it alone. Nobody is going to write your story for you, but a strong community of kindred spirits can be a tremendous lifeline when the going gets difficult. This is the importance of a writing community. They can share and celebrate your successes and help you pick your head up when the setbacks occur, and occur they will. It’s reality. They can offer advice and point out resources. They can applaud you or stop you from hunting lions without a sharp spear. These will be the people with whom you’ll share the small hours, when it’s 2:17 a.m. and you are staring at the words on the screen that have tied themselves in a knot.
We learn by writing, reading, and in the company of those whose blood bleeds words. This is the importance of the writing community. This is your village. They’ll encourage you to write more, they’ll share their work with you, getting you to read inside the craft. They will take your “children” by the hand when you are pulling your hair out and they’ll be there to offer their wisdom, their own “parental advice.”
You don’t have to do this alone. If you do, odds are, the lions will eventually eat you and your “children” will run off into the savannah and become lost souls living in the ruins of your own muse. Dramatic? Maybe. Metaphorically accurate? Probably.
I resisted the siren call of the writing community for a while. I told myself I didn’t have the time or the need of the village. Then one day, I crept closer and watched from the treeline, and what I saw was…wonderful. Here were these writers, celebrating each others successes, pushing each other on, swapping jokes, and stories and morning coffee greetings. Here were writers sharing links, and tweets, and agency/editor insights and networking. When the night came, they faced the dark unknown of the literary night together and I was alone, in the woods.
I am alone no longer. I’ve left the wild and entered the village. And the village? The village embraced me and my “children” and I am not looking back. Writing is a grueling, tiresome, and lovely craft. I’m happy to be in the company of people who understand and share the same experiences.
You don’t have to drive somewhere, to a physical location, or to someone’s house. If that doesn’t work, or if it’s an inconvenience, there are plenty of online writing communities. You just have to find one that you feel comfortable with. You’ll know it when you find the right one. I recently joined a new online writing community, started by the wonderfully friendly and passionate writing spirit, Beth Hautala.
This is a fresh, new communal voice. Literally, it is just starting. It’s like a grassroots movement, a writing community where everyone has a voice and new ideas are welcome. Where you can critique or be critiqued without strings attached, and with honest, constructive criticism. The writers here are interested in what you have to say and in what you are doing. This is a great place to be and we’d love to have you!
To give you an example of how new, and how communal, this really is: the site has no official name yet. Beth has given until midnight tonight (CT) to propose one name for it. The names will then be listed and voted on. Majority wins. Easy as that. Bang. You can name the site. So what are you waiting for?
Stop by http://onewordatatime.squarespace.com/online-writing-community/ and check us out.