Tuesday, November 3, 2020

VITAL WRITING COMMUNITY: Guest post by Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson: 

Vital Writing Community

About a year and a half ago, my plan was to never tell anyone that I was writing, suffer silently for years, then hopefully get somewhere with my writing without having told anyone that I was throwing my hat into the ring. 

 I was in the writing closet. I was scared. Scared of the judgements from the people I knew, even if they were silent. Scared of the “A writer? Yeah right! Whatever-percent of writers never succeed” or the “What a pipe-dream! She’s not fill-in-the-blank enough. Remember that time she did or said something stupid 20 years ago?” or maybe the “She’s can’t be a writer, in my mind she’s still a silly teenager.” All those mostly well-meaning, knee-jerk reactions that I would probably also experience if someone told me they were moving to Hollywood to become an actor or running for president. 

Another obstacle was that I didn’t know anyone in publishing. There was no one to reach out to. I had no connections except a relative that’s a technical writer. 

I planned to not tell anyone until I had reached some kind of milestone, like being published, then arise unquestionably successful, thus squashing the immediate doubts of others. 

Turns out, that’s not realistic. You have to come out of the writing closet. 

You can’t rise out of a clamshell fully-formed, you have to be born as a naked, purple baby, then grow up. A lot of that growing up has to do with the writing community. 

But once you do open yourself up to the world of other writers, there is a wonderful and supportive online community of other insecure-but-trying-to-hide-it people who all want to help you. Partially because writers are readers and they want to read your content, partially because they want your help as well, and partially because people are mostly nice. 

Through this online, and in-person if you’re very lucky, writing community, you learn so much! There are classes, organizations, magazines, blogs, YouTube channels, and people on every social media platform producing helpful content that you can use to improve your craft or get to know the industry. Contests, anthologies, awards, and critique groups can help you find new and tailored ways to improve. But most of all, thousands of individuals to form connections with, learn from, and who want to become your friends. 

Even if you are an introvert and like it that way, it takes a village to bring a book into being. Even if you self-publish, you need to learn how. You’ll need to hire an editor, cover artist, or at least, please oh goodness, get some feedback from at least someone. But especially if you plan to traditionally publish, form those connections! Meet editors, agents, publishers, photographers, cover artists, etc. Even if you won’t hire them directly, wouldn’t you like to know how this stuff works when your publisher asks how you would like to proceed? 

So how? How do you meet these people and form those connections? There are a few ways, but all of them involve that same tactic that works for every social situation. Dive in! 

It doesn’t matter if you feel comfortable or if you feel like the equal of the people in the room. Just jump in anyway! 

Get on Twitter and call yourself a writer. Open an Instagram account and find something to say about a picture of a book. Go to some events and introduce yourself to some people. Sign up for a class. Comment on someone’s Facebook page about something you have in common. Lay that groundwork that could turn into a friendship if they reciprocate. 

I know, we became writers so we would not have to talk to people, so just cry and eat your feelings after you get home from making these new friends, because it’s important that you make those connections. 

It’s important for your own mental health, yes, but it’s also important for your book. If you can’t do it for the companionship or the kindness to other humans, do it for your book! Every friend is another reader. Every person who is roped into the creation of your book is another emotionally invested marketer. Every creator that is linked to you means new webs of connections and more markets for your book. It’s not cold to think of it that way, that’s what we are all really there for. 

So find those writing communities, make those connections, grow as a writer, and use them for your book, because it’s vital. For yourself, for the other writers, and for your books. 


When Jessica Thompson discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche. Jessica is an avid home chef and is active in her local writing community, including being a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. She received a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University but has always enjoyed writing and reading mysteries. Jessica is originally from California, but now has adopted the Austin, Texas lifestyle with her husband and two children.

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