The image of a writer clad in unkempt clothing, hunched over a keyboard for hours on end is as familiar a cliché as it is truthful. The art of creation is a solitary one. Whether you call your source the muse or the word machine, the stories are created by your time and effort while the world rushes by outside.
Yet humans have a need to belong. A need for community. Writers are no different. In fact, I’d argue the fact that writers have an even greater need for community because of the isolation of the profession. Certainly, many of us are introverts, but, contrary to popular belief, introverts are not antisocial. At least, not always.
Having just returned from my first convention I can say unequivocally that if you can attend one, you should. Being in a room of like-minded individuals provides a sense of belonging and camaraderie, but you can also sit in on panels and learn from industry professionals. Hearing their experiences and advice is invaluable, and never underestimate the power of making connections, no matter if you have one book published, none, or dozens.
I will be honest. Introducing myself to strangers and making small talk are not among my strengths. I fight self-doubt and fear the entire time. (What if I sound like an idiot? What if I can’t remember their name later?) But I found myself doing both more than once at the convention. I can’t say it got any easier, but no one laughed in my face and called me a hack, so that’s something.
Which brings me to my next point: We are all on the same side. Writing is not a competition. Writers are not pitted against each other for a single coveted spot on a bookstore shelf, and one writer’s success does not mean another writer’s failure. Meeting other industry pros helps drive this home. We all have strengths and weakness, we all have doubts, but at the end of the day, we are all part of something larger than just our desk and chair.
If you can’t attend something in person, social media’s greatest gift is the ability to step outside your locale and connect with others all over the world. Don’t be afraid to reach out and say hello on forums, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on. If you are an established author, it will give your fans a way of connecting with you. If you are a new writer, it will help other industry folks put a face to your name.
Writing may indeed be a solitary profession, but gone are the days of isolation. With that being said, you can remain a silent figure behind a curtain if you wish, but if you choose to take a step outside, the community you’ll find is one of genuine support and friendship.