Big reveal — I’m an introvert. I like spending time alone, away from people. It’s how I started writing in the first place: hiding in my room, or staying up later than everyone else so it felt like I was alone in the house.
But to make writing something that I continue, something that I actually improve on, I can’t just sit alone in the house. I have to get out, and learn, which was a big reason for starting my MFA. On my own, I was stuck in place, and in order to move on I needed more eyes, more ideas, more guiding hands. And through my mentors and the friends I made at Lesley, that’s exactly what I got.
Then I graduated, and I left my nice little pocket of guaranteed advice. While it’s been nice to go back to completing things on my own time, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to continue without some sort of continued support group, only this time it wasn’t going to be maintained for me. I had to keep it up myself.
The first thing I did was make an agreement with one of my best friends from Lesley, Rachel — we would Skype with each other, talk to each other, and read each others work, all the time. We try to schedule talking times, but already we’ve had a couple of impromptu conversations to bolster confidence and talk each other off of ledges. We’ve only been at it for a short time, but this already makes me feel like I have a real, solid connection to a writing community.
Other friends have been on my side as well. One woman started an email chain where we say how many words we’ve written that week. It’s no pressure, and no booing if you’ve only written, say, a paragraph, or a tweet, but it makes me pay attention to my output, helps me to count things I might have forgotten to count. And, again, it keeps me connected to these people that I’ve met.
Another big help is the email writing group my friend began with myself and two others. Every couple of weeks, someone sends X amount of pages to the group. Everyone reads it, and two weeks later sends their critiques. Then someone else sends their work, and it starts again. I haven’t gone yet, but this is making me remember I have to actually finish some work, instead of just starting a bunch of things.
And finally, there’s Facebook. Oh, social media. With it, I’m able to join all the Lesley groups, including the student-made ones, and find out what’s happening with my friends and with the school I am so grateful for. It helps me out when I’m slacking — because really, this maintaining-relationships-thing is darned hard — and reminds me of all the great people I’ve met, and want to stay in touch with.
I’ll make other writing friends outside of my MFA group (I’ve already made a couple) but I hope that everything I’m learning about how to maintain these relationships, and why I really, really, REALLY need to for both practical and emotional reasons, will help me keep up with any new connections I make.
Do you stay in touch with any writer connections you’ve made? Are you part of a group, or do you just talk about writing?