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The Best Writing tip? People

Writing is hard.

Anyone who attempts the endeavor, whether novice or veteran, knows this to be true. To be concise, yet eloquent, evocative yet relatable, clear but beautiful. It’s a fine balancing act and a difficult one at that.

Writing is also lonely.

When you sit to construct characters and plot, it’s just you and the chasm of a blank page. You can talk up your story all day, wax about your characters, hint heavily at the mind bending plot twist, but at the end of the day, you have to get to work,

Just you. And even once you start writing, it might take years before you can produce something polished enough to share it with anyone.

But maybe writing doesn’t have to be as difficult or lonely as it seems. The remedy is people. I know. You fellow introverts out there may be thinking, "People? Ew." But the single best thing I’ve ever done for my writing was joining a writing group.

It was August 2019. I had a completed manuscript (100,000 words over what a book should be but I didn’t know that at the time) and an inflated idea of what I thought my book to be. The electronic sign outside my library read, “Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers group meeting on Thursday.” “Hey, that’s my people!” I thought. If I want anyone to read this (besides my friends and family who all gave glowing reviews, of course), this group would be the ones.

But…. people. New people. I, a timid mouse who was deathly afraid of change, would have to walk into a room of people I had never met, with no familiar face to fall back on, and hand over this personal work that I had poured my heart into.

Looking back, I’m amazed I did it. How did I make it to that meeting? How did I overcome the social anxiety? I went. Again and again, every other week I kept going, even after I got less than glowing feedback on my chapters. Truly, I can only say it was the Holy Spirit. Nothing short of divine grace could have walked me through those doors. And divine grace knew what I needed, knew where I should be. I learned so much from my library group. How to give critique, how to take it. How to show, not tell. How a good writing group can be structured.

Three months in I felt like I was being put through a rigorous exercise program. Sure it was good for me, and sure, I was growing, but man, did it hurt! My writing was improving, but I needed encouragement. I needed to know that the person who tore down my writing had the same goal as me. I needed someone who understood why I wanted to write stories.

That meant I needed to find other Catholic writers. Because for me, writing wasn’t just an ego trip. I wanted to create something larger, to join in that creative Spirit. I needed other Catholic writers who saw stories in the same way I saw them, a way for God to speak through me. That brings me to the second best thing I did for my writing: starting my own writers group. Now this part isn't universal advice for everyone. But for me, it was a necessary next step.

I threw an invitation out into the wilds of social media, personally inviting the few people I knew who might be interested. The start was rocky, not the tight-knit group we have today. We were awkward and fumbling. Eventually, it dwindled to two, Catherine and I swapping chapters of our stories every fortnight. This was a strange, magical time where we consumed large chunks of our books as we got to know each other’s worlds. Then one by one, once again seemingly by providence, more joined our group. Kelly from a podcast slack channel/recommendation from a mutual friend, Paige from Twitter, Lauren from Paige from twitter, Grace from Twitter, Tyler coming back from the original group, Rob from Paige (OK we seem to own half this group to Paige. All hail, the recruitment queen!) Here we are today, our eclectic group of nerds trying to make our mark on the world of books.

And I cannot express to you how these people have helped me grow, have supported me, have prayed for me, and have allowed me into the vulnerability of their writing. Nothing has made my writing better than having other people look at it and give me their honest feedback. Feedback that comes from high standards but charity as well (Please be nice to me. I’m fragile.) I want my writing to be the best it can be, but, dang it, I want it to come from someone who understands what I’m trying to do. So for goodness sake, or for the sake of your writing, find a writers group.

Throw yourself upon unsuspecting writers who must accept you out of sheer politeness. Haunt your library. Badger your friends who maybe once thought about writing. Do what you need to do to find your people. And it might not work out at first. Keep trying. Having a writing community who understands you and what you’re doing is vital to your craft. Find those people and don’t let

them go.

Or? Join us. We’re launching a Discord server for Catholic writers— storytellers who long for a community of encouragement and like-mindedness in faith. If you’ve been looking for a place with fellow creative writers who can challenge you and support you, laugh with you and celebrate with you, join our Inkwells and Anvil’s Discord community. We’d love to have you, and we can’t wait to see what you create.

After all, it’s dangerous to go alone.

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