The Privileges of the Writing Life

When we think of writing, we think of struggle. The struggle to get our stores written, the struggle to get published, the struggle to promote our books, the struggle to gain a living as a writer. The image of the tortured artist still holds sway in the popular imagination. But in many ways, the life of a writer is a rich one, and if we didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t do it. We tend to think of the benefits of writing in terms of competition wins or publication success, but it also greatly enhances our emotional and mental wellbeing, as well as the quality of our everyday life.

Here are some of the benefits that I’ve observed as a writer.

Ordinary Life Becomes More Interesting

If you’re a writer of fiction, your job is to pay attention to those small, ordinary details that other people miss. Seemingly insignificant details, banter with a shop assistant, a brightly coloured scarf around a woman’s neck, can be the trigger for stories. The great gift of writing is that you notice the extraordinary within the ordinary, and you transfer that to the page. You’re a lot less likely to be bored, and because you’re so engaged with what’s happening around you, other people will find you interesting to talk to, which is a nice ego boost.

Following Your Passion

Not many people are lucky enough to have a true passion, an activity or a cause that fills them with purpose and gives their life meaning. If you have the courage to follow your passion for words, life will feel much more exciting. That passion will also be reflected in your words, and people will respond to that passion. Many people find that they feel out of sync if they don’t act on their urge to write. Acting on that urge gives you a sense of balance, and you will end each day feeling fulfilled.

Making Sense of the World

Modern life is so busy and so full. Our days are full of events, even if they are only small ones. We’re also being bombarded with more information than our brains are equipped to handle. Writing helps us to process what’s happening around us, and turning our experiences into stories can help us to understand ourselves better. Most important of all, if something happens to us which involves a lot of emotions or changes in our life circumstances, writing gives us a way to deal with it. Being able to give voice to our innermost thoughts and feelings boosts our mental health in the long run.

You Get to Play God …

… or whatever higher power you may subscribe to. Being able to invent worlds, and characters to live in those worlds, can give you a real sense of power. When your story is flowing, you feel really inspired, and the process of putting that story together is thoroughly enjoyable. As a non-fiction writer, you benefit from being able to gain more knowledge of your subject area, or bring to light an amazing true story. Even being able to find the exact word or image to describe something is extremely satisfying.

When the words refuse to come, you get rejected or your Amazon profile doesn’t get the attention you hoped for, it’s worth remembering that the writing life is also full of wonders, which make all the hassles worthwhile. What benefits do you feel the writing life has brought to you?

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How to Benefit from Facebook Writers’ Groups

A couple of years ago, I set up a Facebook group for writers. I love running it, partly because I’m addicted to Facebook groups. As opposed to pages, groups are designed to be communities of like-minded people on Facebook, where people can exchange tips, advice and experience. I set up the Facebook group for Irish writers and book professionals because I felt overwhelmed by the information overload on the web, and wanted to meet other writers and get information that would be relevant to me as an Irish writer.

Facebook groups are intended more for information sharing than for promotion, but they can help you get the word out about your books or writing services if you use them cleverly. Here are some tips for how to use Facebook groups to enhance your writing reputation, drawn from my own experience of running the Irish Writers, Editors and Publishing Professionals Facebook group.

  1. Start Chatting

Like anything in life, you’ll get out of a group what you put in. If you join in the discussions, you’ll get to know the other authors on the group and build relationships with them. Writing can be a lonely life, and just knowing there are other people out there ploughing the same furrow can be a comfort. As an extra bonus, over time, these people will be your audience when you have book or event that you want to spread the word about.

2. Be Generous

If you’re a writer or a book professional with some experience, a Facebook group gives you the opportunity to share what you know. If someone on the group asks a question, give them a comprehensive answer. This will enhance your reputation as an expert in the book field and may attract people to your books or services in the future. Give encouragement to a fellow author who doubts themselves and share useful information that group members post with your own networks. People will appreciate these little acts of generosity.

  1. Ask Questions

If you are breaking into the world of writing or the book world in general, a Facebook is a great place to gather the knowledge you need. A well-run Facebook group offers a safe environment where you can pose any question you want without fear of ridicule. You’ll have access to a warm, friendly community of people who know what they’re talking about, and the information you gather will help you achieve your writerly goals.

  1. Respect the Group’s Promotional Policy

Some groups allow no promotion at all, while others are very liberal, allowing you to trumpet blast your latest book release. In the group I run, we try to achieve a balance between promotion and information. We allow promotion using certain designated posts, and promotions are not allowed outside of them. In general, Facebook groups are more about information than promotion, and with blatantly promotional posts, you may run the risk of looking a little desperate. If this is your promotional style, you’ll get better results using more direct promotional mediums like Facebook ads or e-mail campaigns.

  1. Use Moderate Language

You’re on Facebook to represent yourself professionally as an author. My Facebook group doesn’t allow profanities, but even if there is no such restriction, be careful with your language choices. A remark which you think is made in jest can seem offensive out of context. Also, avoid making personal remarks against individuals, even if you have good reason to. You could run the risk of libel charges, and at the very least, you’ll give the impression of someone who’s bitter, which won’t do your reputation any good.

How do you use Facebook groups to promote yourself? And if you run a Facebook group, how do you make sure that the group is beneficial to members?