Creating a Village
by Channler Twyman
As a recent undergrad, I have found trying to write outside of an official literary and academic environment is hard as hell! I was not blessed enough to come from a family with an abundance of wealth, nor was I fortunate enough to find a sugar daddy willing to fund me living expenses and writing endeavors for nothing in return…yet. But you know what’s even harder than finding the time and motivation to write? Finding people to actually read and give you decent and creditable feedback.
The unfortunate thing about not having 24/7 access to academic spaces is that you are not surrounded by fellow peers and creatives. Sure, you can keep in contact with them online and other varying methods of communication. But nothing beats being in a creative writing workshop or miniature cohort that you have created with people that you trust to read your work and give constructive feedback on. That’s part of the reason so many people pursue creative writing MFA programs. All writers would like a consistent period of time in which they can constantly be given feedback on their work.
So, here are a few tips to all my fellow marginalized writers out there who are struggling to find people to help make your work better.
First, find writers that are just as committed to making their work inclusive and diverse. I have heard so many horror stories from friends and peers who entrusted their stories to folks who were racist, queerphobic, xenophobic, and just plain ignorant. For marginalized writers finding people you can trust with your own work is ten million times tougher than our more privileged counterparts. The literary world is producing so many beautiful POC and queer writers and stories but is still extremely and tragically dominated by white cis-gender men and women and has been for the past few centuries. Shifting the focus to underrepresented stories is not going to happen as quickly as we wish for it to be. That is why it is imperative that you find fellow writers or peers that share the same or similar ideals when it comes to representation of marginalized writers.
The honest truth is many of the people you will encounter in creative writing circles might not “understand” your stories, or to be more precise, might not attempt to understand them. Some people even feel as though marginalized people, people of color specifically, are getting too much notoriety—can you feel my eyes rolling? Entering any predominantly white and heteronormative space can be traumatizing to any of us. We must literally fight to be understood and seen, and that can be exhausting beyond belief. So, before you even think of sharing your work with anyone, make sure your ideologies are in sync.
Second, as much as we are notorious for being huddled up in our varying silos of isolation, reach out to other writers online. Twitter and Instagram are my personal favorites. Many writers share thoughtful and engaging discourse on craft, current events, societal issues, and other things that affect their work. They often even share different fellowship and publishing opportunities. Start by following your favorite writers, and once you feel brave enough, start following the replies to their threads, tweets and posts. If you feel comfortable enough, direct message different writers yourself! I would be doing you a disservice if I did not mention that this tactic can be hit or miss. It’s hard to judge how other people perceive you online, and it’s even harder to judge other people’s intentions, but if you are following people who do share the same ideas about writing that you have and they make a purposeful effort to reciprocate communication, then it is safe to assume that you have found yourself a valuable writing peer.
Third, attend local readings, book festivals, and writing workshops. Social media comes particularly comes in handy here too. As an introvert I can attest that I hate forced social interactions with a passion, but ultimately having someone in your proximity to read your work is always a good thing. Chances are, based on the things you like to read, you will find writers who share the same ideals and taste that you do. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and participate in discussions. A little idle chit-chat has never killed anyone, and if the payoff is finding a reliable writing buddy, then I’d say the effort is more than worth it.
Lastly, when all else fails, stay in touch with your writing friends from school. Technology is too advanced to make excuses as to why you cannot keep in touch with people that have a proven track record of showing love and care to your work. Sure, you cannot be in the same space at any given time like you used to be, but you can still get the same quality feedback online as you would in person. Do not ruin a good relationship just because you are too lazy to keep in contact. Trust me when I say it is hard out here in these writing streets. When you find people, you can trust with your work, hold onto them for dear life.
Although finding a group of fellow writers and creatives can be excruciating, it must be done. You need to create a support system full of people that care for you and your work. I am not saying these people cannot be more privileged than you, or that you even have to have a lot, but everyone, no matter what the profession is, needs a network of reliable support.
I do advise that at least one person in your chosen cohort shares at least one identity as you and at least one person that writes in your preferred genre. I also advise having someone who is more seasoned in the craft as you as well, but however you decide to form your village of creatives, just make sure you trust them to help you create the best art you possibly can, if it seems as though their intentions are not just or honest or if their ego becomes bigger than their care for the craft, cut them out. You will be better off in the long run.
Most importantly, do not let people who do not care for you, care for your art.
Until next time,
— Channler Twyman is a Staff Writer from South Georgia. ICYMI: Last time on “I See You,” Channler wrote about Madeline Miller’s spectacular novel, “The Song of Achilles.” You can read it by clicking here.