I consider myself to be a full-time writer, which in the societal definition of the term, amounts to writing (or completing other writing-related tasks) for anywhere between 32-40 hours per week. For me, this amounts to 32-40 hours (and oftentimes more) spent in the solitary confinement of my office. I don’t mind spending this time alone and in fact, these hours of creation and introspection actually help me make sense of the world. As much as is humanly possible from my narrow view of it, anyway.
But something happened about a year and a half ago. I noticed a change in my social calendar. I don’t know how or when it happened, but I had slowly, gradually withdrawn from life. In retrospect, I think this was a reaction to not making progress as a writer. I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit to what I considered to be my job when I really had so little to show for it and so my solution was to retreat. I interacted with people (outside of my very small inner circle) as little as possible because without conversation there were no questions about career. My fearful, doubtful, self didn’t have to worry about someone else calling me out as the fraud I already believed myself to be.
This shift affected my outlook. I became self-centered and self-conscious, habitually hiding my vulnerability behind cloaks of blame and negativity and cynicism. I thought I was only protecting myself from the inevitable judgment of others, but what I didn’t realize was that I was also closing myself off from the possibility of their support as well as any opportunity I might have had to offer encouragement to them. I created a comfort zone—albeit a lonely and not very comfortable one—and I was too timid and too insecure to step out of it.
Then, on April 4, 2018, I received an invitation from a good friend of mine to attend with her a live personal development session hosted by a local life coaching company. And I accepted. I didn’t know it at the time, but that “Yes” was going to be a huge turning point. That yes created a domino effect of other yesses and slowly, ever so slowly—and I do mean slow, like a geriatric snail with nowhere to go and all day to get there—I began to take tiny steps forward. As one thing led to another, I finally experienced that which I hadn’t experienced in years: Progress. Progress on my manuscript, progress on my own personal growth.
It was difficult. It was scary. It was a lot of hard work. But I can’t and don’t take all the credit. I firmly believe that if not for the people I encountered over the last year, and the relationships that flourished as a result, I would not be where I am today. I would not be working on the third draft of my novel. I would not have had the courage to let someone else read it. I wouldn’t have created this blog or a Facebook page or a Twitter account. And I certainly wouldn’t have understood the value of community.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for a purposeful WIP to open up to other people. From support and encouragement to understanding and perspective to accountability and shared knowledge, the benefits of community are tremendous. However, as is true in most things, you get what you give. Connections are reciprocal. That’s where cultivation comes in. Relationships require an investment of intentional nourishment and energy and attention to thrive. Offer consistent support and you’re likely to receive it back. Share your expertise and chances are good others will not hesitate to share theirs with you.
Wherever you are on your goal path—whether struggling to start, stuck in the middle, or celebrating completion—there is someone out there who has been where you are, who will root for you, or who will be motivated and inspired by your story. And never before has it been easier to connect with these like-minded souls. Join a Facebook group, set up a Twitter account (for all you writers, there is a wonderful #WritingCommunity out there), or find a local club or organization and attend in-person. And if one doesn’t exist, be bold and create it! But don’t just sit on the sidelines, interact. Be a cheerleader and allow yourself to be cheered.
You’ve heard of the circle of life. This is the circle of community. We were not made to fly solo. God made us to love and be loved. There might be a lot of disparity and animosity in our world right now, but there’s also a lot of kindness and generosity. Don’t miss out on all the goodness because you’re too busy hiding from the haters. Cultivate community and watch your progress grow.