It is not easy to define what support looks like in practice. It might seem easy. Then you meet people and discover that they often find it difficult to take others’ needs into account when they are deciding how they are going to behave in life. This might surprise you, but it probably shouldn’t, as you are people, too, and have probably not centered your own life around what the general “other” needs.
It’s even more complicated when you’ve been burned. When you thought what you had was support but found out that what was really going on there was agenda. Or when you had an agreement, and that agreement was not honored. Or when you really did have support – one that you thought would last forever – right up until the moment that it ended.
Today, I want to talk about two places I’ve found support and what that looks like. I want to talk about two of my online writing communities.
I also want to invite you to join us, because, dear reader-writer-friend, I want you to have support, too. If any of this interests you, follow the links to find out how you can get involved.
The first online writing community I joined was the writing community at Andilit. It was created by Andi Cumbo-Floyd who wrote The Slaves Have Names (click and buy – you know you wanna) about the people who were enslaved on the land where she grew up. I am boggled, both by the enormous amount of research it took to tell as much of their story as possible and by the humble grace and beauty with which she tells it.
I joined because I had this scrap of a manuscript, and I needed fresh eyes. What I found exceeded (and continues to exceed) my expectations.
I get monthly editing for up to five pages of work from a professional editor. Five pages is a drop in the bucket as far as a full manuscript goes, but for the turtle-esque pace with which I edit my own work to the point that I am willing to let another human being see it, this works out perfectly. I am saving up for a grand editing once the manuscript is totally finished (and if you are looking for such an editor, I highly recommend Andi), but it’s great to have help along the way as well.
I also get monthly editing from a workshop of others in the group for up to five pages. This was the part that scared me when I first joined, because I tend to helicopter-parent my characters. They’ve been through so much already; I want to protect them from judgment. But as with most overzealous protection, this doesn’t help them grow, so I begrudgingly submitted pieces for workshop. It has been a godsend. It’s a critique, but from nice, friendly people who write very different things but are still enthusiastic in their desire to help you make your work better, and they expect the same from you. It doesn’t mean the critique doesn’t ever hurt, but it hurts in the good kind of way, like having sore legs the day after a challenging run.
In addition to all of this, Andi facilitates a private Facebook group for members where we post articles or posts on writing that we find, our own blog posts, and anything else writers might find helpful to their craft. She ends out weekly writing prompts to keep us from getting stuck. Andi teaches several online courses at reasonable rates. She also lives on a farm where she is hosting a writer’s retreat in July (another thing I’ll be saving toward so that I don’t miss it again next year).
The second online writing community I joined was Story Sessions. I meandered into Story Sessions via Elora’s blog after I read Every Shattered Thing (go ahead, click and buy – I’ll wait) and thus had the insatiable urge to read everything she has ever or will ever write. I feel almost as protective of her main character as I do of mine.
There are many options for membership. All of them, however, include a private Facebook group and private members-only content on the website, weekly writing prompts, a monthly newsletter, and story coaching with trained coaches. There are e-courses offered (I’m in the summer session of Story 101 now, and it is glorious) as well as various collectives (mini-courses on a variety of topics), virtual retreats, movie nights, and an annual in-person retreat. We also meet in person in more casual groups on a regular basis, because we just can’t help ourselves.
My favorite thing about Story Sessions are the write-ins. This might sound funny to members, because my crazy schedule doesn’t allow me to engage in them very often, but I LOVE them. Many of the blog posts I’ve written in the last year of which I am most proud (and all of the blog series I’ve started) were birthed at a Story Sessions write-in. On a weekly basis, members are invited to an online Fuze meeting where we are given prompts, time to write, and an opportunity to read what came out of that time to the other people attending the session.
All that I have said is just a small taste of what you would get from membership in these groups. These words don’t do them justice, because the people in these groups are my friends, and when have words ever done a friend justice? I have read many a snotty piece on how Internet relationships aren’t real relationships, but I can’t help but wonder where those authors are looking. I know online relationships can be real, because I experience them. And while it’s even better when we have a chance to get together in person, the foundation of our friendships started via the Internet, and they flourish there.
I love these people. Mercy, how I love them.
I would consider myself lucky to have just found one such community, but I have two. If you are a writer/artist in need of support, give us a try.