(Can you tell I’ve made a recent trip to the Memphis zoo?)
Writing can be a lonely job. Though there are some writing partners, generally it’s just one person with a computer or a pen and pad. The characters and places we create become quite real to us, but the truth is, we spend much of our time alone with our imaginations. Which can make us a little odd.
Not long after I signed with my agent more than twenty years ago, she suggested that I join a writers’ support group. I’d never even met a published writer at the time, and she thought it would be good for me to network and make friends within the business. I joined the national Romance Writers of America, but there was no local chapter at the time and I knew of no other local organizations. I didn’t even know anyone else who wanted to write books … or so I believed.
So, I placed a free ad in the state newspaper. I don’t remember the exact wording, but basically it said that I was a serious, aspiring author wanting to form a writers’ support club. The same day that small ad appeared, I received a phone call from an aspiring romance writer who is still one of my closest friends (Sally, the one who told me when my first book appeared on the shelves, and who has since published a dozen books of her own). It turned out that there was already a small but active writers’ group in my area, dedicated to popular fiction. Most of the dozen or so members at that time wanted to write romance, but the club was open to any genre. Sally invited me to attend, and within the first ten minutes, I knew I’d found a group of friends.
It was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded for the first time by others who shared my dream. We had different day jobs, different backgrounds, different goals in writing, but we all had that desire to tell stories. To see our books in print. To know that our books were being read and enjoyed. During the next few years, as that group grew and evolved, it amazed me how many people shared that dream of writing. Some are content to write for a hobby, others want to self-publish, to write for small presses or epublishers, for magazines or anthologies or big publishing companies, still others dream of bestseller lists and movie deals, but we all have something in common. We’re writers.
Romance Writers of America has more than 10,000 members. I’ve attended conferences with over 2,500 writers and aspiring writers in attendance. I’ve made some of my best friends at those conferences. I’ve always been amazed at what a supportive group writers can be. Despite the natural and even healthy competitiveness, writers spend a lot of time speaking and teaching and critiquing … actively training our competition!
Though time has become an issue for me with deadlines and family responsibilities competing for attention, I still belong to RWA, to Novelists, Inc. (a multi-genre organization for writers of popular fiction who have published at least two books), and to a local RWA chapter, Diamond State Romance Authors. Through these groups, I receive updates on publisher news, tips on staying healthy in our sedentary job, ways to fight burnout. Through on-line writers’ forums, I can ask questions and receive instant replies, send congratulations for writing achievements and condolences when bad things happen to good writers. We cheer each other on during our writing days, keep each other focused and motivated, brainstorm and offer advice. I can’t imagine how my career — and my life — would have been different had I not sought out other writers so long ago.
My husband belongs to two woodworking groups, one for general woodworking, another for woodturning. He tells me he feels the same way about his organizations as I do. He’s made close friends, learned a great deal, shared ideas and accomplishments. Again, the people in the groups come from widely different backgrounds, but they share a joy of working with wood, of crafting and creating all sorts of beautiful and useful items.
Our society seems to become more fragmented all the time. Many of the social and charitable organizations that were once so popular have faded away. We spend more time in front of the computer or the television, less time mingling and socializing face-to-face. But I think we benefit greatly, as individuals and as communities, by getting together, sharing our common interests, supporting each others’ dreams. Whatever your interests, there is probably a club of others with whom you can share your passion. If not — why not start one?
I’m so grateful for all the friends — writers and readers — I’ve made through this career I love.