The myth of the lonely writer

Find your tribe!

Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.

Jessamyn West

If you’re a writer, you might have a reputation as a bit of a loner. It’s true that writers generally need quiet and solitude to do their work. This has led to some interesting prejudices about writers. For example:

  • Writers are introverts.
  • Writers are eccentric.
  • Writers can often be found staring off into space.
  • Writers talk to themselves, and the imaginary voices in their heads talk back.
  • If you tick off a writer, they will put you in their next book–and your character won’t end well!

I’m not saying the above aren’t true in individual cases. And the same could be said for other people who do mostly-solitary work, like indexers (I’m one of those too) or different kinds of solo freelancers. We do tend to stay head-down, reading or writing, absorbed in our separate text-based worlds.

But despite this reputation, writers belong to a huge global community, and companions are–quite literally–at our fingertips. Working alone doesn’t mean being lonely.

Whether you’re an emerging writer who wants to learn from more seasoned writers, an established writer who wants a sounding-board, or anywhere in between, there are many ways you can make connections with your peers.

Here are some tips to help you find your tribe:

  • Get out of the house: Set up your laptop (or your pen and paper) at a local cafe. Wander around a bookstore. Skulk in the reference section of the library. Hold your copy of Steven King’s “On Writing” and be open to chatting with whoever comments.
  • Participate in a group: This could be a virtual group, like those on Facebook or Twitter (find them using writing hashtags, like #WritingCommunity) or purpose-built platforms like Scribophile. You can also look for an in-the-flesh group that meets at a local coffee shop. How do you find these groups? By asking around, and checking out your local community newspaper.
  • Volunteer: Those associations I just mentioned? They are always looking for people willing to lend a hand. It’s a great way to network with people who are into the same stuff that you are.
  • Attend a conference or a workshop: Associations and schools often have their own annual big conferences, where you can hear from rockstars of your genre and get to know your peeps. There are numerous independent conferences you could look into as well; one popular option is the Surrey International Writers Conference. If big conferences are out of your budget (they aren’t cheap!), see if your local library or distance learning provider has any upcoming options.
  • Attend an event: Many communities hold or host fun festivals for readers and writers. Word on the Street–a Canadian celebration of literacy and writing–is held in multiple cities across Canada. Other big events include the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, and the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. Smaller communities host their own events too–Nelson, BC’s own Elephant Mountain Literary Festival is one of the best in Canada.
  • Connect with authors: There are plenty of authors just like you who want to connect with readers and other writers. This is especially true for local authors. Attend their book readings and signings (and buy their books if you can), review their books on Amazon, sign up for their newsletters, and follow and engage with them on social media. Be respectful, honest, and helpful.

And finally:

  • Talk to people. Writers are everywhere. Don’t be shy about talking about your writing—you never know who else is also working away at a Great Canadian Novel or a Facts & Arguments essay in their spare time. And chances are, they want to talk to other writers too.

Happy connecting!

%d bloggers like this: