Community Is Important for Writers

To be honest, I’ve been pretty down for the last week or so.

As I’ve shared before, I have been teaching Legacy Writing classes via the Lifelong Learning Academy here in Sarasota-Bradenton. It is a great opportunity for me to share some of my knowledge about creative writing and meet some really great people. The most recent academic quarter, I had a class filled with writers who had taken earlier classes with me and were eager to keep their writing momentum moving forward. This was a great group of adult learners who had some really magnificent stories to share.

Near the end of the eight weeks of class, several of the students were fighting various illnesses: a broken knee-cap, vertigo-like symptoms, heart problems, and other medical issues.

And then, I found out one of the students passed away last week, only hours after our last email exchange. He was a student with a long writing background, and his work showed it. The selections he brought to class to share with the group were outstanding. I had been hoping that the two classes he’d taken with me were just the beginning of an ongoing literary friendship. I was looking forward to many years of chatting about writing and sharing work together.

And then, he was gone.

It wasn’t as if we were great friends. And yet, his passing has left me very sad. I wanted to know more about his life; I wanted to read more of his words.

Putting down some literary roots can help encourage and deepen your writing.

Putting down some literary roots can help encourage and deepen your writing.

Just last week, I was telling my writing students about the need for a writing community. We learn and grow best when we are surrounded by those people who can offer us a healthy balance of support and critique. One of the reasons I teach classes like the Legacy of Words class is because I gain more knowledge and experience in creative writing every time I teach. And, I gain new literary friends.

Tonight, I met a new writer friend. She reached out to me, having stumbled upon my website, because she is at one of those points all fledgling writers get to: she’s in need of her own literary community. We talked for an hour and a half, and I walked away feeling re-energized and excited having spent time with someone who has such passion for the written word.

It doesn’t matter if it is a client/student, a writing peer, or someone whose masterful knowledge of the craft I hope to learn from: having other writers to talk to, share with, help, and learn from is a key ingredient in my development as a writer. We don’t have to be in the same classroom, at the same coffee-shop, or even on the same continent, but putting down those literary roots so we can soak up the nutrients around us is a valuable thing.

I hope you are writing, and that the words you write matter.


As I finished this post, I was reminded of this line, from the song, I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time, by Over the Rhine. (Link to YouTube video version.)

But I don’t wanna waste the words
That you don’t seem to need
When it comes to wanting what’s real
There’s no such thing as greed
I hope this night puts down deep roots
I hope we plant a seed
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

Read the lyrics to the whole song at Over the Rhine’s website.


5 thoughts on “Community Is Important for Writers

  1. Sorry for your loss this past week, but it shows that our writing community needs to be filled with more than just two or maybe three excited writers. And yet already you have found a new writing friend! I love your image and the caption. Both so perfectly capture the thoughts you convey in your post. I don’t have a local writing community, but have built one online with many good friends, teachers, encouragers, and on and on. The power of the Internet is good for we who write. Do hope the next week is a better one. And just so you know, I am writing but whether or not the words matter to someone else, they matter an awful lot to me. 🙂

    • Oh, that they matter to you may be more important than if they matter to anyone else.
      It is interesting: that is exactly the same thing I end up telling my Legacy of Words writers…even if you are writing your story for someone else, it is often YOU who benefits as much, if not more. The Life You Save May Be Your Own. Or something like that. 🙂

  2. Sympathies for your loss and thank you for sharing. Twenty years ago I walked into a room full of strangers. They had been gathering every Tuesday morning for about three years, to share writing and encouragement. I was a new writer, penning a local column ala Erma Bombeck.

    Over all the years, with no obligations, no dues, no formal organization, this group is still going strong and continues to grow. We, too, have lost members and they are dearly missed. They remain with us in their stories.

    Throughout the years, the networking alone has been beneficial, but the education in the craft of writing has been invaluable. I had no way of knowing on that first day, how the St. Croix Writers’ group would shape my life. I met a regional publisher there, whom I turned to when my father wanted to publish his memoirs of a small town cop. I ended up working for that publisher for five years. Then I founded my own small press to help others publish their memoirs.

    More recently I worked for a group of historical sites and I was fortunate to have articles published in numerous industry magazines – always after several go-rounds of critiquing at weekly meetings. I am now semi-retired, but published regularly as a freelancer for two local magazines and a newspaper. Not bad for a sparsely populated rural area of Northern Wisconsin.

    I have been considering offering classes to seniors, to encourage and help them to write their stories, especially for their own future generations. This post has helped to convince me it is the right thing to do.

    • Thanks for the comment, Judith. When I first started teaching writing with the “lifelong” learners, I thought Fiction would be my main concentration, and the Legacy of Words class was something I thought I’d “try”. I dramatically underestimated the demand for the Legacy classes. Each quarter I have a whole new set of folks who are ready to write, though they are filled with self-doubt. Once they overcome these initial hesitations, though, they produce some amazing tales, and it is an honor to help them get started and begin to consider and refine their work.
      I hope you have as good an experience with it as I have.

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