As I said in last week’s post about writing and mental health, isolation is a big problem for writers. It’s easier to find support at the beginning of your career. Writers groups and creative writing classes are a natural home for emerging writers. But when you publish a book, you move on to the next phase of your career, and it becomes harder to find a community to support you.
A lot of writers are quite self contained and happy to work alone. But I find I need outside stimulus. It gives me huge inspiration. I’ve done my time in writing classes and groups, but I felt myself growing beyond them. Not because I had delusions of genius, but because my reasons for writing were different from a lot of my class and group mates.
I want to be a published writer, for the rest of my life. And I needed to connect with people who shared that goal. With the publication of my book, I can’t really say I’m an emerging writer, but I’m not quite an established writer either. I wanted to find writers who were also at that in-between stage.
I’ve met plenty of writers online over the last year and it’s been great, but I like being out in the real world, meeting real people. So once a month I have excellent coffee and really excellent conversation with two writers who are at a similar stage to me, with similar goals.
Orla Shanaghy has achieved the Holy Grail of getting to read on RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany and has been shortlisted in a couple of big-name competitions, like the William Trevor Competition and the Fish Competition.
Derek Flynn’s first novel is on the point of being picked up by a publisher. He’s had several nibbles already. He’s also a musician, with two albums under his belt.
We share the trials and the triumphs of our writing lives: the rejections, the acceptances, the writers’ block. They allow me to indulge in epic whinges, for which I am eternally grateful. I really appreciate Orla’s sharp, insightful critique, and I’m being slowly converted to Twitter by Derek’s enthusiasm. Their perspectives have strengthened my work, and reassure me that I’m not mad to want to continue to be a writer in the face of what can seem like never-ending obstacles.
But it isn’t just a talking shop. We critique each other’s work, point each other to useful resources and concoct schemes to take over the world through social media. As a result of our collaboration, we’ve had the opportunity to take part in a social media panel during Waterford Writer’s Weekend, which is likely to lead to further social media workshops in the future. And most important of all, there’s the writing. We give each other rigorous but supportive critique. With all of this, we’re helping each other to reach the vaulted plains of established writerdom.