Building Writing Communities

I was playing around with some oracle cards the other day. I asked the cards what I was supposed to be doing with my life right now. I took a deep breath and drew a card at random. The Builder

The Builder, according to the card’s description, “creates networks and systems that enable people to live and work together, sharing resources and creating a supportive, sustainable community.”

Which is, of course, exactly what I’ve been focusing on lately.

Inspired by image and concept of The Builder, I decided to “update" my website, which turned into a frantic three day binge (do as I say, not as I do) of installing a new template, deleting a lot of old pages, creating new links, breaking the new links, adding new photos, writing new copy, and generally holding the website together with duct tape while I figured out my new vision for it. By the time I was done, the whole thing felt like a newer, better, and more authentic version of me.

I realized that the urge to rebrand my website stemmed from deep shifts in my ideas and beliefs about who I am, what I do, and how I serve people. I’d been doing academic editing for the last few years, helping people express complex ideas in clearer and more engaging language. I’ve really loved working with authors and reading their work. I’ve gotten to help people shape research about things I legitimately didn’t know existed. (I have learned so much!) Nevertheless, editing often leaves me isolated and lonely in the same ways that writing does. And unlike writing, it’s hard to turn editing into a social activity.

I’ve been feeling pulled towards helping people in new ways. I’ve been thinking about how to create communities, both online and IRL, to help people get writing done and take greater creative risk in their writing. For example, I’ve been hosting Shut Up and Write sessions every Tuesday morning since January. Although the sessions started out small, they’ve been gaining steam and I’ve now got a regular group of people who tune in every morning to write together for an hour. People check in, we write, and celebrate progress. Together, we’re all getting more writing done.

I’m building new communities of people and relationships with others to support people in their creative ventures. I’ve been doing writing coaching with my editing clients for some time, but wanted to keep doing that kind of work with new people. I really enjoy helping people look at their writing practices in new ways to help people use their own creativity and ingenuity to solve problems. I’m also creating a pilot mastermind group to see if it will help people get writing done. I’m picturing people creating a real community of practice and learning together by building new relationships with each other and also fostering a new group identity. Mastermind groups have been around for a long time (used by business people), but I never thought about their possibility for helping writers. The mastermind group is a new project for me, so I feel more than a little scared and vulnerable, but I’m really looking forward to learning with a group of people.

I’m building writing retreats and will be launching the first one in July in Mérida, Yucatan. I’m so inspired thinking about bringing together a group of people and fostering a new community of writers who support each other. Much to my delight, other people seem pretty thrilled about the idea too.  My July retreat is starting to fill up and people have asked me about future retreats. I’m excited to think about the possibilities for building new communities of writers and helping people create their own sustainable writing practices.

I built a new tagline: “More writing. Greater joy.” There is much hand-wringing and kvetching all over the internet about how hard people find writing. I am personally an absolute champ in the competitive sport of complaining about writing. I think a lot about the fact that even though writing should be a neutral activity like tying my shoes, it’s one of the areas in my life that makes me feel the most vulnerable. (What if someone actually read my writing?!) I’ve also been thinking about the fact that writing is also one of the things in my life that also gives me tremendous joy. Sure, it’s difficult a lot of the time, but difficulty itself doesn’t seem to me to be a reason to not write. Plenty of people do things in life that are hard and require a lot of practice. Getting good at doing any of this stuff is hard and takes time and a lot of practice to get good at it.  I’m thinking about dancers, painters, photographers, potters, performance artists, and really any one else on the planet who makes things. Birthing new stuff into the world is messy, scary, and hard, but also exciting, creative, and joyful. 

I’m serious about the joy part. My focus word last year was joy. What I learned about joy was that having it in a world that seems so difficult much of the time feels subversive. Our current news cycles guarantee a never ending laundry list of things that spark outrage and sadness. In much the same way, writing provides plenty of opportunity for fear, shame, and frustration. But what might shift for us as writers and people if we looked for those moments in which writing feels joyful and creative? What if we allowed struggle and joy to overlap? Struggle and joy in the creative process might be better thought of as a both/and than an either/or.

I’m feeling now like I’m doing the kind of work I want to be doing: heart-centered, creative, intellectual, and community-based.


Because I seem to be addicted to doing things that scare me, I'm giving a live workshop about the DIY Writing Retreat in a Box on Monday, March 26, 2018 at 11am EDT. If you've already downloaded it, I've saved you a seat. If not, you can still get it by clicking on the photo below. I'd love to see you for the workshop, but if you can't make it, I'll be sending out the recorded version this week.