I’ve recently joined a writer’s group, and I’ve been open that I’ve found it invaluable. It gives me a sense of stability and institutes a series of mini-deadlines, thus pushing me to do my work and bring it forward. People are supportive, thoughtful and helpful. I try to repay them in kind. This goes against the grain of what I was taught in my early career. I’m glad I’ve unlearned it.
Back in the 90s, when I would voraciously read every recommendation from Writer’s Digest and take it to heart, I glommed on to the idea that writers had to be aloof from other writers. All sorts of things were spouted about “competition” and “purity.” I realize now what I was doing was absorbing dogmatic superstition. Nowadays, I’m all about connecting to other writers, and here’s why:
1)A community of support keeps me working.
I have new people/friends that I want to show my stuff to on a regular basis. This social support causes me to produce material to show them.
2)Competition is pointless.
Publishing is at best a capricious world; spending my time trying to write “better” than anyone – rather than simply writing my best on a given work – is an exercise in futility. Getting published for pay requires a combination of luck and social savvy – so you might as well develop that savvy by being social.
3)Trying to “protect” original ideas wastes your creative energy.
Artists from time immemorial have convinced themselves not to create for fear someone would copy/steal their ideas. Creative process must be fearless, or at least brave: you’ll stall at the one idea if you get too worried about hanging on to it, but if you release it by creating it then you can move on to the next line of creative concepts.
4)Writers can actually help each other.
Only another writer can give you feedback in your craft from the perspective of trying to get the material of the brain to appear on the page. It adds a nonverbal element: “You know when it all comes so fast…” and the other writer will know.