Wednesday
Aug312011

10 Ways to Make Writing Friends

“I need more creative conversation," a new friend confides.

It’s a need I know well. And judging by response to the question recently raised — How do you make writing friends? — many of us are seeking meaningful conversation. 

Combining reader response with my own experience, I offer some suggestions:

How to Make Writing Friends

IN PERSON

1. Join (or Start) a Writing Group
Join a local writing group. Can’t find one? Start your own!
Writing Alone, Writing Together is a handy get-started guide.

Success: Years ago I moved to a small, remote town and had no writing friends. I couldn’t find a writing group so I started my own. I created a structure — a monthly drop-in writing session held in my home. I served soup and offered writing prompts — and spread the word by posting fliers in the laundromat, post office and local restaurants. The first session, a dark and stormy night, the house filled with first-time and experienced writers of fiction, poetry, essay and more. We met for more than two years, and then held our first public reading at a local coffeehouse. Over 50 people attended the reading and Off the Page became an annual event. Now in its fifth year, Off the Page features writers of all levels and genres, from all over Oregon.

Caveat:  I found a writing group that met in the next town. They were a warm and welcoming collection of writers — and dedicated, too, meeting for several hours every week. The members were retired and they met in the afternoon, at a time that, unfortunately, did not fit my work schedule. Still, I am grateful for the brief time I spent with these gracious writers. My advice: Find a group that fits your schedule, personality and writing process. Don’t get discouraged. Finding a good fit takes time, effort and an open mind.

2. Take a Class
Polish your skills and meet other writers. Find writing classes at community colleges, bookstores, community centers and libraries. But remember, it’s not enough to just attend class, you gotta participate, and then — gasp! — reach out to others.

Success: “I met my first writing friends by going to a free mini-workshop put on by a local writer's conference,” says Linda, a reader of this blog.  “At that first meeting almost 28 years ago, I met my friend and lifelong writing buddy — we still remain best friends and writing pals to this day!”

3. Volunteer
Schools, libraries and community centers are in desperate need of caring, committed volunteers. When you volunteer, you help others and you help yourself by expanding your social circle. "How about volunteering at the library?" suggests Fred, a reader of this blog. "Maybe not all are writers, but they all read." He's right. Volunteer at the library and you’ve already got a common bond: a love of books.

4. Attend Readings & Open Mics
It’s not enough to read and write, you’ve got to support other readers and writers. You want your words in the world? You want attention and applause? You’ve gotta give it to get it. And here’s the bonus: While you’re cheering on others, you’re also increasing your odds of making new friends. 

5. Write a Letter
I enjoy writing letters of appreciation to authors. When I was 10 years old, I wrote my first "fan" letter, to Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The handwritten letter I received in response made me a dedicated fan of Blume, and of books. “Write fan letters to your favorite authors,” says Linda, a reader of this blog. “Sometimes they respond and become writing friends.”

Caveat: In recent years I've penned letters of appreciation to poets whose books I enjoyed. Sadly, I've received no response. And while it's disappointing, it's also a good reminder that we're each at different places and paces in our lives.

ONLINE

6. Read (and Respond to) Blogs
The web is chocked with writing blogs. These online resources offer information and inspiration, and most bloggers want to interact with their readers. Get connected by leaving a comment on a blog post, or sending an email to your favorite blogger. Reach out. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a writer — like you — ready to make a friend.

Success: A friend, who I met through my blog, calls herself a "lurker" — a person who reads blogs but never leaves a comment. She lurks on the edges as an observer. When this shy reader-writer took a chance and entered a blog drawing, she won the book — and made a friend. 

7. Linked In
LinkedIn is a business-related social network, and a good place to meet writing professionals. The site is packed with hundreds of writing-related groups with active message boards and opportunities. Check out: Book Writer, Certified Professional Writers Association, Poetic Asides, and more.

8. Facebook
Sure, Facebook can be an endless feed of meaningless banter, but when used with focus this social network can yield writing groups and support. For example, do a Search for “Poets” or “Fiction” or "Writing Groups" and you'll find numerous options. Or search for your favorite author or book and you’ll easily find a ready-made group with at least one thing in common.

9. GoodReads
What writer doesn’t love to read?  (If you don’t read, don’t tell me. It’s too painful to know). Share your love of books with others on Goodreads, and let this shared passion lead to new friends — and book suggestions.

10. Be Brave
Making friends can be difficult. Like dating or a job search, finding friends can stir all kinds of insecurities. Sometimes you just have to buck up and be brave. I made friends, explains Molly, a reader of this blog, by asking classmates if they wanted to get together after class. “I mustered my courage to go a step beyond.”

 

Saturday
Aug272011

Your life must be witness to this impulse.

Illustration by Austin Kleon

In the early 1900s, Franz Kappus was an aspiring poet enrolled in military school when he wrote to Rainer Maria Rilke for writing advice. Rilke’s response turned into a six year correspondence, and spawned Letters to a Young Poet:

“ . . . ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

Austin Kleon, the inspired artist-poet, cleverly illustrates Rilke's writing advice. See more here.  


Friday
Aug262011

Saved — by friends and poems 

How to make writing friends?

Toss out the question and let the suggestions swim in. 

Thanks for the great ideas. They landed by blog, email, and message board. I'll share them all soon.

But first things first: The winner of the drawing for the book, Saved by a Poem, is . . . Molly Spencer.

Thanks again for sharing your ideas and stories.

 

Tuesday
Aug232011

The world is full of words. Use them.  

Annoying Words
(I Beg You Not to Speak, Write or Use)

Really? Seriously?

Hand me a muzzle. I cannot bear to hear one more tart and snarky Really?

Used as a barb to show displeasure, this one word response requires no articulation, and no carefully considered critical thinking. Really? — delivered with an annoying inflection, and followed by Seriously? — is just plain lazy. And overused. At one time, say three years ago, this succinct response was clever and a little bit cute. Now really is yesterday's amazing.

Actually

Actually is an unnecessary word, a filler that quickly bloats and bothers. Diane Lockward at Blogalicious offers this well-put rant: "I want to place a restraining order on the word actually. Forever, not temporarily. The word has used up its lifetime quota. Overused and misused, it's become a sort of verbal punctuation mark or a space holder. Well, actually. How many sentences now begin that way? Actually, a lot. How many responses begin that way?"

Literally

Like so many good words, literally has been abused.

In its standard use, literally means "in a literal sense, as opposed to a nonliteral or exaggerated sense." In recent years, according to my trusty dictionary, an extended use of literally has become very common, where literally is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects: we were literally killing ourselves laughing and is not acceptable in formal English.

Kelli Russell Agodon sees the lighter side of literally: "I confess I love it when people misuse the word literallyI literally yelled my head off.  Really, that must have been very painful for you and how weird you're still alive.  I literally died laughing. Really.  So you're a zombie now. I know some people get really annoyed with the misuse, but in my head, I love it. I literally see all the things these people literally did."

Bless her heart, I'm not there yet.

I may be cranky but I don't think I'm alone: What's got you bothered?

 

Thursday
Aug182011

How to make friends (and win a book)

After I gushed last week about my gratitude for writing friends, a reader raised a critical point:

How do I make writing friends? 

Excellent question! It's not easy making friends, at any age, and it can be a real challenge to find niche companions. Want a running partner? Head to the running store. Seeking foodie friends? Take a cooking class. But writing friends? Do you stalk bookstore shelves looking for people with pens? Pace the paper aisle of your local Staples?

Desperate needs call for desperate measures but you don't want to appear desperate. Get too needy and you are a neon sign broadcasting Danger! 

You want to cultivate literary friends, but how?

I've got a few ideas, born out of desperation and desire. But before I spill my first-hand blunders and sometimes success, I want to hear from you — and I'll sweeten the deal by offering a free book. Tell me:

How do you make writing friends?

Where and how have you made friends? What's worked? What hasn't?

Jot a note in the comments section below, and I'll enter you in the drawing for Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words by Kim Rosen.

Feeling shy? Send me an email with your suggestions to dcm@drewmyron.com. I'll include you in the drawing, too. 

Deadline to enter is Thursday, August 25, 2011. Winner of the random (i.e. highly unscientific, blindfolded drawing of name) will be announced on Friday, August 26, 2011.

Looking forward to your ideas, experiences and suggestions!