5 Ways to Make Writer Friends Forever – I am delight to be a part of a blog collaboration. May I introduce, Cathalynn Cindy Labonté-Smith, who has written this article for ConversationsWithLisa. Be sure to visit her site.
When you think of a writer at a coffee shop, do you think of an antisocial goth in the corner toiling away on the next great novel? Someone covered in tattoos, piercings and angst? True, some of us come in that dark package topped with rainbow-coloured punk hair, but many of us walk amongst you in nondescript attire with conservative exteriors. However, if you were to chat with us you’d soon find that we live in worlds of our own making. It’s true that the majority of writers are introverts, however writers and surprisingly extroverted writers, who are storytellers. However, whether you have an innie or outie personality or somewhere in-between, there are many benefits to finding writing companions, as they can make you:
- Accountable to finish your project.
- Put aside time for writing on a regular basis.
- Network to find markets, agents, publishers and projects.
- Give valuable feedback for your work.
- Learn to give feedback in a way that’s useful.
- Exchange your specialized skills, like editing, indexing, graphics, layout, web design and other skills for what you need.
- Collaborate on projects and get more publishing credit.
- Expand your circle.
- Be inspired.
- Solve problems.
- Satisfy the need to belong.
So what are some ways you can find these valued writing companions? Here’s a few ways I’ve found my WFFs (Writing Friends for Forever):
- Writers’ Workshops
- MeetUp Groups
- Pairing Up
Join a Writers’ Workshop
Writers’ workshops are for writers who want to give and receive feedback on works-in-progress during the meeting time. I first found my people in writing workshops in university at the age of 17. They were the edgy or quirky ones from Creative Writing classes. The ones who didn’t care what the feedback was from the others and just kept being themselves. The ones who wrote poetry after getting stoned on magic mushrooms from the forest on the way to class. The ones who wrote genre fiction versus traditional stories. The ones who skipped class to play pool with me and swap stories about their love lives. The one I’d start out walking to class with, but turned around and went to the waterfront market instead. We spent the day comparing cheeses on black bread surrounded by hungry seagulls. The gifted ones who wrote from their souls. We’re still friends over 35 years later.
I found the workshops stressful, because most of the participants were in the master’s program and were quite sharp with us undergrads. You definitely wrote to a tight weekly deadline. This format is motivating if you have trouble finishing your pieces, as you have to give the participants time to review and comment on your work prior to the meeting.
Your piece can definitely improve having all those writers giving you input. You also learn to be diplomatic and constructive in your comments to other writers. The main drawback to being in a workshop is that you have less time to write your own stories.
You don’t need to sign up for a university or college course to join a writer’s workshop, but you may want to. Many writers’ workshops are offered online through continuing education programs. You can also look for destination writing retreats that have a workshop component.
There may also be local writers who have organized writers’ workshops. Most libraries have writers’ groups, although they tend to be full. You can ask around and find one by word-of-mouth.
You can start a new writers’ workshop, if you can’t find one to join or have a specific vision. You can advertise it for free with posters at the local library, malls, local papers, and online. Hold it at a coffee shop or the library, so nobody has to host the event. (Most libraries will allow you to bring in beverages in a covered cup.) Once you have a few people coming, you can set the format together, or you can set it up how you like and see who’s willing to play by your rules.
Find a Meet Up Group
There are Meet Up groups (https://www.meetup.com/) for writers that meet in coffee shops. Although, during this pandemic they’ve met online through video chat. The writers meet weekly and write for two hours. There’s usually a social component before, after, or sometimes midway during a break, but for the bulk of the meeting you write in silence.
The difference between a Meet Up group and a writers’ workshop, is that in a Meet Up group you write for the two hours on your own project versus reviewing other writers’ work or getting feedback on your work. You write for that whole sesh in the company of other writers. The energy of a bunch of writers fueled by coffee and inspiration is contagious.
You can get feedback from each other outside the group, if you find someone you click with who’s willing to do that. Most members are willing to do that but be prepared to tell them what you want them to comment on.
I don’t know what I’d do without my weekly group that I started near my home in a coffee shop that roasts its own beans. Seeing them has become the highlight of my week. Throughout the pandemic we met on Zoom. It wasn’t the same as meeting in-person, but it kept us in touch.
My lovely group is starting to meet up face-to-face again on the patio of the coffee shop. It’s been an incredibly cool July, so we have to bundle up and dress in layers.
At the Gibsons Writers’ Meet Up Group, on occasion we get to sit inside, as the coffee shop is limited to two tables. We can’t all sit around the same table due to social distancing nor is any hugging going on, but it gives a feeling of constancy to see each other, do some collaborating, see what we’re working on, how everyone’s health is and what excitement is happening. For example, this morning Elizabeth thrilled us with a video of a baby bobcat strolling past her sliding glass door.
We support each other’s readings and book launches, although none of that’s going on right now. At Christmas, we have a dinner where spouses and family are invited. We exchange small tokens, often handmade, with each other. I have few friends in this small community that I moved to a few years ago; however, when I sit down to write every Friday with my WFFs, I feel like I was drawn here to find my tribe.
I’m so fortunate that I have a WFF that I can write, edit and collaborate with, who has a similar background as mine. We met when we were members of a technical communication organization and also served as volunteers on the executive together. Having one other writer to meet up with in a coffee shop has worked well for me, and I hope for Jeff Hortobagyi too.
With just the pair of us, we can change up which coffee shop we meet at. We take turns meeting up at downtown where he lives and on the North Shore where I have a condo. Our mutual appreciation of great coffee and the atmosphere of coffee shops led to us collaborating on our blog: The Write Cup (http://www.wrtecup.wordpress.com).
Jeff Hortobagyi and I have a book in progress based on our blog of inspiring places to write in the world, including a workbook on how to write better, faster and longer based on our writing experience and education.
To pair up with another writer, join some writers’ organizations, volunteer for some writers’ events, meet other writers and hope to click with somebody. It’s not necessarily going to happen right away, but it’s worth the investment of time to find the right writing partner(s).
I made my friends into writers. I even converted my husband into a writer. In fact, he’s become more successful at it than me. I’m not sure how this happened, but I’m delighted. Maybe, by bringing out something that was already stirring inside my mentees? Certainly, by encouraging them through the process of writing their first books. Writing and finishing my first book was a great feeling but seeing a friend and my husband publish their first books is an even greater feeling. I have had so many mentors throughout my writing career, it’s nice to pay it forward.
If you find a mentor and can mentor another writer go for it. Like pairing up with another writer, this isn’t always a quick match. But putting the message out into the universe that you’re looking for someone like that can bring that person to you.
For those of you who like to meet with online, there’s an online writer’s workshop to get your manuscripts workshopped and to workshop other manuscripts called Scribophile.
There’s also FaceBook groups for writers and bloggers, who will answer your questions, leave comments and/or increase your traffic. To find them, just search under writers, or bloggers in Facebook to find the group that best suits your needs.
You can have as much engagement in the writing life as you want. You can join as many types of groups as you like, plus you can have a steady writing partner. You can have a mentor, as well as be a mentor. You can go to a writers’ workshop once or twice a month, go to a writer’s meet up five days of the week at whatever time that works best for you. You can find the right groups in the right locations for you. You can visit a few groups and see which ones work for you: the quieter ones, the chattier ones, the ones that write more fiction, the ones that never talk about what they write, whatever you prefer.
Like most endeavours, that more time and effort you put into it the more you will get out of it. The more time you spend with other writers, the more ideas you will bounce off of each other, the more people you will have around you to help you pick titles for your books, or come up with ideas for books, or read your books, and celebrate your successes. Here’s to your writing success.
About the Guest Author
Cathalynn Labonté-Smith is a blogger from Gibsons and North Vancouver, BC, Canada. Read her blogs at The Write Cup.