Monday, May 16, 2011

We Need A Community Of Our Peers

By Pamela Moeng

Those of us with a day job constantly daydream about that nirvana in the just-out-of-reach future when we will chuck the day job misery for the bliss of writing full time from home. But today I realised one of the true blessings of the day job is a constant community of peers to cheer you on, commiserate with you and lift you with advice that assists your professional development. I attended a workshop of other communicators, reluctantly because it took valuable time from the office, but I left inspired, uplifted and feeling the warmth of kindred spirits.

I guess the hardest part of writing full time in a home office could be self-imposed isolation. I'm just beginning to create a network of other writers to advise and cheer me on and I can feel the difference in my spirit already. I think before one quits the day job for nirvana, one should build up that network of cyber support if not warm bodies that can sit over coffee and offer technical advice and stories of how-I-did-it-and-succeeded.

Following other writers' blogs, signing up for credible free ezines, tapping into sites designed especially for writers and editors can all help create a support structure without walls for those days when spirits flag and success seems unattainable, whatever you perceive success to be for you.

Reaching out may not be in character for you, but reaching out could mean the difference between success and failure. Certainly misery loves company, so if you are struggling with some aspect of writing or running your writing business, you may learn from others in the same situation. You might also decide that your situation is not as bleak as you think once you speak to other writers.

What do you think? Any suggestions for those thinking of making a leap of faith toward nirvana?


Damaria Senne said...

I don't think I would have been the writer I am if it were not for other writers' teachings, supporta and encouragement. So many people have been there for me to tell me that they have faith in me. they have shared their knowledge with me, and sometimes, they even sent work my way. And as someone who works from home, the Internet has been a great toolfor me to remain connected with the world and other writers even when I don't see them in person.
As to what else writers who want to writers should do to go fulltime, I'd say:
1. Save as much money as possible, unless circumstances are forcing you to go fulltime immediately. I know it seems hard to accunulate half a year's salary, but clients don't always pay on time and it's easier on the nerves if you're working towards your 7th or even fourth month earnings, rather than to pay arrears. I haven't ever managed to do that aspect well, but I want to improve as a saver.
2. Learn the business while you work. Start writing for money and treat it as a second job ( whether fiction or non-fiction). That will help you set up a client base and publishing track record, learn the skills you need in your new career and increase your earnings to contribute to point 1.

Judy Croome said...

Pam, I agree. No matter how supportive our family & loved ones are, only another writer can really understand the hills and valleys of the writer's journey. Today, with the power of social media, building a supportive network is a fabulous and fairly easy task. The downside is that the social media can be a huge time thief that steals that rarest of commodities: uninterrupted writing time. The key is to find the right balance (which I'm still searching for!! :)
Judy, South Africa

Devon Ellington said...

I often say that, unless you treat writing as your second job while you have a day job, you won't be in a position for it to be your first job.

When I worked on Broadway full-time (40-60 hours a week), I also wrote. Every day.

Now that I'm a fulltime writer, I write. Every day. I couldn't have made the transition if I hadn't set up the rhythm.

As far as community, yes, we need both the virtual community and the in-person community. I'm lucky that I moved to an area filled with artists and writers and activists and environmentalists, all of whom are open to meeting new people. I make sure that I spend a certain number of hours every week going out and doing things -- attending lectures, walking on the sanctuaries, volunteering to help build the butterfly garden, going to exhibits or luncheons or dinners, getting to know local artists and supporting their work; in turn, they support mine.

It takes time and shared experience to create community, and, even with writing and full-time job and family, you have to make the time.

It's worth it.

Most of us who write were inspired by writers who came ahead of us, who we'll never get to meet. So it's wonderful to meet and support our peers, any way possible.

Pamela said...

I appreciate the comments tremendously and the time you took from your own writing to answer my question. I'm going to put more effort into building that network and trying to squirrel away the cushion Damaria suggests for that one-day-in-the-not-too-distant-future when I too am a work from home writer!

Nayes said...

You know...being a writer and all I imagine that I should be offering up some sort of well thought out comment - but all I can think of to say is "yes!"

And perhaps "I salute you."

Damaria Senne said...

HI Nayes. Thanks for coming by. I hope you do come again.

Jay Schwartz said...

I've been writing for fun (blogging) and profit (educational material) for a number of years.
In the past, I primarily worked in the EFL profession as a teacher and teacher trainer. I still do, but becoming a freelance writer has become another hat I wear professionally to make ends meet... and it has helped. I originally moved into writing professionally because I thought I could produce better and more authentic teaching materials than those I was working with. Similarly and as a result, I moved into audio engineering so that I can produce better sounding listening comprehension material than what was being produced from my own material. So that added another form of potential revenue to the mix, and another hat to wear. Nevertheless, having fun writing and opening up a new vent for my creativity has stirred up my desire to write full time, even for non-educational purposes. To really make a go of it, I know that I need to really throw myself 'into it' business and marketing wise, much more than I do now. I'm close to jumping in (the old procrastinator's refrain!) and not sure what's holding me back at this point except fear of failure, lack of business savvy, and an empty bank account - but I certainly wanted to encourage you to follow your heart and mind, because I know how you feel.

And, yes it's true that a supportive community of peers is always appreciated.

Damaria Senne said...

@Jay - thanks for the words of encouragement and for sharing your story. I hope you do eventually overcome whatever is holding back and take the leap fulltime writerdom, if that's what you want to do next.

Pamela said...

Jay, your work spans such a number of areas, I'm sure marketing your business is next on the agenda. I think you've given Damaria an idea for that business mag she's working on. A how-to-market-your-business would probably be a welcome article to many of those readers. Are you listening, D? Many thanks for all our visitors to the post and Storypot. Hope to see more of all of you!

Damaria Senne said...

@Pam - you're very right. I'll include a pitch for a marketing article, tailored for the target audience.

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