Community Building for Writers

Hey, look at me! I’m stealing a real topic for this post. Community building is something we’ve been talking about over on the forums at Holly’s Writing Classes. If you’re not a member already, the basic forum membership is free, and Holly’s offering a free flash-fiction course. Both worth checking out.

But anyhooo—

In real life, community building is something we do without thinking about it. Particularly those of us who live in smaller towns. And probably everybody, when they’re in a select group like a writers’ club or a book circle. (Borrow my flamethrower?  Uhm… yeah. Sure.  Sure thing, neighbor! *forced smile*)

Back when I was in a town that was large enough to have a real-life writers’ group, it was similar. Brownies and red ink for everyone! In all honesty, I think the community-building gene outstripped the constructive criticism gene 2-1. But we had a good time together, even if we weren’t all working on the same kinds of things. And let’s be honest. If someone doesn’t like your work, that information should definitely be followed by the phrase, “but here… have a brownie.”

Community building is more than just showing up. It’s actively working for the good of the group and participating in the group. One of the guys in my Real-Life writers’ group showed up.

His goal–this wasn’t funny at the time–was to convince me to give him a (specific, female) porn star’s phone number. (Long story. Kinda dull.)

He’d show up like clock work to every meeting we had, and find a way to be sitting right next to me. And obviously, he adored every word that issued forth from my pen.

What he didn’t do was write.

As far as I can remember, he never actually wrote anything, and he never read any of his work to the group. But, he showed up.

It didn’t make him one of us. And it never got him that phone number.

Heck, it didn’t even get him my rule on phone numbers.

He was there, but he wasn’t part of the community.

Participation is absolutely rock-bottom basic community building. If it’s a writer’s group, you have to write. If it’s a dance club, you have to dance. If it’s skydiving… well, I’m sure you have to at least watch the plane take off, or something.

Then learn the rules. If we’re dancing, take off that stupid ring that keeps cutting my hand. If we’re writing…

Taste is a big one. There’s a lot of difference between this isn’t to my taste and this sucks.

Pen names. Some of us have a lot of them. And for assorted reasons, even the writers’ club might not know all of them. So, the old adage about if you can’t say anything nice goes a long way. It’s an awkward silence that follows “You know that author you hate?  Uhm… I’m him.”

What else? I know there are things. Encourage everybody. Bring brownies. Food always goes a long way. Even on the internet. See? {=|=} Brownies.

Any other thoughts?

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