Community Part 1: My Deepest Desire

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on being part of the writing/publishing community – wanting it, finding it, what it taught me, and some brief commentary on how it affects the number of female vs. male YA writers.

~~~

I remember the moment I knew I was a writer.

I’d suspected for a while that there was something different about my approach to writing. My friends liked to create, and we all liked to read, but writing always seemed like my inevitable career choice. I’d been writing fan fiction for a year or so, and was just getting into my first, real novel. I had these feelings inside no one around me understood, a sort of magic that didn’t fit in with what my school said writing was like.

I thought for a long time I was just being pretentious, or crazy (growing up as the only INTJ I knew certainly made me feel broken a lot of the time). And yet these feelings existed, I knew they did! Was I the only one like this in the world? Wasn’t there another creature out there like me?

And then I found one.

In the back of a tiny little book called Fahrenheit 451, there was a scholarly interview with Ray Bradbury. In it, Ray mentioned feeling like he just followed his characters around and wrote down what they did.

It was a simple statement. I read it in a normal classroom, in a normal school. But everything had changed.

I stared at the words on the page, read them over and over. Here was someone who understood. Here was someone who had experienced what I had. I wasn’t alone. No, in fact one of my worst fears has been completely dissolved. Not only was there someone like me out there, but it turns out I was a real writer! These feelings inside, this weird craziness that made writing feel like talking to other people inside my brain, it was all normal, and beyond that, it was evidence that I was legit!

(And so I understand why it’s a cliche in querying that lots of writers talk about how much they feel they belong to writing, instead of telling the agent about the story. For someone with no publishing credits, often the only ‘proof’ they have that they’re the real deal is those feelings inside that whisper or shout that this is what they’re supposed to be doing with their life.)

It wasn’t until later I realized I was still alone. All throughout high school I never met another ‘real’ writer. Sometimes new friends would give me hope, but ultimately writing wasn’t their greatest talent or their passion, let alone their call in life. I felt like an endangered species – special and rare, and incredibly, incredibly lonely.

I tried to find companionship in books, which helped, obviously. I sought out writers’ autobiographies, just to feel connected. But you can’t ask a book your questions, and googling was hopeless. I couldn’t vocalize what I was looking for. I was a member of FictionPress and FanFiction.net, but those didn’t make me feel connected. Writing forums online were full of pleas to read badly-written first chapters and hard-and-fast rules I didn’t want to follow. Publishing was a vague, intimidating idea in the future someone; I’d never heard of a literary agent.

How do you find what you’re looking for when you don’t even know what it is? When there’s not a word in any language you know for that feeling you get? When all you want is someone to shriek with and say ‘OMG me too!’

Even when I eventually found out about literary agents and signed with one, the only guiding source I had was agentquery.com. My agency sisters didn’t write in my genre (at the time), and I still felt like an outsider. Imagine that; even signing with an agent didn’t give me the sense of home I desired.

But in the end, community found me.

It came in the form of an invitation to join Let The Words Flow. Over the course of a few days I became connected to girls my age who felt what I did, who were serious about their writing, and out there making it happen! It was mind-blowing! For the first time since Ray Bradbury I didn’t feel so alone.

As LTWF expanded so did my sense of community. I started to feel out its shape, learning the ins and outs of industry and where various sub-communities overlapped or pulled away from each other. I started to learn about the lives of other writers, and finally all my old questions were answered: What are your favorite books? Where do you work? What do you wear? Do you write like me? Do you use the same methods I do? Programs? Laptop brands?! What do you eat for breakfast?! 1% or 2%???

To this day I can’t get enough of writers and their lives. I guess I still haven’t gotten over those years when all I wanted was the companionship of other writers. And that’s also why I’m so open about my own writing and why I try to be open about my life (when it’s not incredibly boring). That’s why I love telling my stories and reaching out to young writers, because I remember that loneliness, and the desire to belong.

Even if I never got published, holding onto this sense of belonging would be enough. Because it validates my internal purpose. Because when I’m here I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. Because writing is home, and I am there.

<3, Savannah.

What about you? Where is your desire to belong? Where is the place, virtual or real, that you go when you want to feel home?

~~~

NEXT POST: How to plug into the writing community, and what being a part of it has taught me!

POST AFTER THAT: How community helps you succeed – and why it might be a contributor to the gender-gap in publishing.

7 thoughts on “Community Part 1: My Deepest Desire

  1. Armith-Greenleaf says:

    You know, I really hope this is what the me of the future will say one day.

    In this sense I’ve had a pretty similar experience, except even when I opened up to my closest RL friends about writing, and even though they didn’t make fun of me for it (very important detail), none of them could really understand. Most of my social circle is made up of people in the technical sciences, and so am I, which makes me something like a zebra among horses.

    So, I joined FanFiction.net without really having a sense of direction. I just knew two things: I’d always concocted stories in my head and now I was going to put them on paper/screen, and I wanted to learn English. That opened two very important doors for me (English landed me a master scholarship, but that’s not the point), the writerly one being that well, I love writing. It’s the most fulfilling thing I can actually do (for lack of awesome martial arts skills.)

    I moved onto FictionPress with a bit more insight into the writing world, and although I had acquired two friends from FF (whom I’m still very close to), we had different writing inclinations (one was to stop, the other to seek a genre I don’t read), so I placed my hopes on finding more writing friends on FP. Although I met quite a number of people in it and later on The Write Away (do you know it?) I didn’t really find someone that just… clicked. You know, someone to trust, to share writerly woes and joys, to egg each other on, to fret, ramble and brainstorm with, someone as eager to read my brainchild as I would be to read his/hers.

    I’ve moped and moped about my inability to find someone like that and have a number of theories of different conspiracy levels. And here I am, still alone and drowning your blog in pathetic-ness because when I read what this entry was about I just gasped and wailed in agony. I want to find a community, I need to find a community, because everything in life is hard to do alone and writing is already a very lonely business.

    PS. I’m also INTJ, sista. *HI5*

    • Allow me to step outside my natural INTJ-ness for a moment and glomp you. Holy cow, another INTJ writer! This is amazing!!

      Some of the stuff I did NOT include in this article is how even within the community I feel alone sometimes, but I blame it on the INTJ stuff and have another article in progress about that so I didn’t mention it here. But essentially, despite my connections and blog groups, I do still feel alone a lot of the time. I have a few friends/CPs but not to the level it seems that others do. I know I’m very lucky in that I was involved in LTWF/Pub Crawl, and the girls there socialized around each other which let me feel involved without actually participating all the time, you know?

      In my next article I’m talking about how to find community, but it’s basically all oriented around feeling like you’re connected to the energy of the community, even if you’re not participating. Sometimes I read my Twitter feed and get this overwhelming sense of connectedness, and sometimes all those people talking to each other give me an overwhelming sense of outsiderness.

      I think for us this will never go away. The truth of it is that though I WANT to feel connected all the time, and like I have these special, close relationships, I don’t desire putting the work into it to develop those relationships. Because for an INTJ, relationships ARE work. They don’t come naturally. They’re exhausting. And I’ve accepted I’ll never be a bubbly mega-tweeter because while I’d like the benefits sometimes, at my core I just don’t want to be that person. It’s at odds with who I am.

      So glad again to know you’re an INTJ!

      • Armith-Greenleaf says:

        That’s actually one of my theories, too. While I seek out people to make connections, those connections are not very deep. Most of the people I feel I could click with are very busy with their lives, and I can’t force myself to wiggle into their lives and become another chore. In other cases it feels like everybody’s already arranged into cliques and it feels like to belong, we have to share the exact same ideals/methods/styles, and so far that hasn’t been the case, or it simply feels impossible to break through. Then there are the writer friends who don’t write often or seriously, and because of this difference in commitment I feel like a complete douchebag when I talk about my writing to them; like I’m bragging.

        When it comes to the publishing aspect, I’m still on that stage of making decisions… very far from a querying author, or one with an agent, or one well beyond in the process, so even there I have no one to turn to. It feels out of place to reach to a person in one of these stages while I’m so behind, lost, confused and more lonely than a buoy in open sea.

        One way or another, I always feel like an outsider. There have been a few times when I’ve been close to feeling “inside,” but they’ve never quite prospered. And the disappointment is tough, man.

        I’d never attributed it to the INTJness, actually, but it makes sense. “Rational masterminds” are very good at finding problems and dwelling in them; there’s no solution we’ll accept until we find it ourselves. Is it also in their job description to have difficulties reaching out?

        This all sounds a lot like whining, I’m sorry. I’m just a little bit too eager/desperate to be understood, heh.

  2. Caitlin Vanasse says:

    I think maybe, what draws me to the writing community, despite not having this writing spark/compulsion you speak of is curiosity. I have always been curious about the world: Why things work the way they do, why society has developed as it has, and what if this or that were true. I often seek the answers in science which is why I’m drawn to scientific fields. I desire the world to be a rational place I can understand (even though it is oh so irrational) but for those questions that cannot be answered with science. The what-ifs and alternate histories of the works, the intricate character studies that occur in fiction, these I think create some of the awe I have for all you writerly types. The ability to fabricate out of whole cloth these amazing people and places and situations, it’s fascinating and amazing and I’m almost as interested in that process as I am in the product of that process. Does that make any sense?

    • It does make sense. I’m fascinated by it, too, and I even get to do it! Our subconsciousnesses are amazing, and I’m always interested to see how other people access theirs.

  3. This post is making me all tingly inside, almost as much as that post you did on that cathartic moment when you knew you were a writer, and I love it.

    I’m definitely still finding myself in this phase that you’re talking about, where I know my “hobby” of writing is something that I want to turn into something real but I don’t really have anyone to share that connection with in real life. So I’m turning to the Internet, which is helping me that- just like you- I’m not alone.

    I’m still feeling kinda alone out there, mostly because I see myself as not fitting into any real writer “mold”- meaning I’m a nursing student athlete who is squeezing in writing and recreational reading in between clinical rotations and papers and lectures and races… But I think this is something that I’m really appreciating about the writing community. They’re pretty accepting. Because even though I’m this odd hodge-podge of a person, there’s still people out there willing to connect with me. Which I think is pretty darn awesome :)

    • New tagline: I want to make you feel all tingly inside :-)

      But seriously… I love that feeling, and I’m so flattered you get it from my posts.

      Mostly I think writers love writing, and other writers by extension. If you write, then you’re a writer, regardless :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.