Vision: A Resource for Writers

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The Best Resource: People

By Valerie Comer
Copyright 2009 by Valerie Comer, All Rights Reserved

re-source [ree-sohrs] (noun)

1. A source of supply, support, or aid, esp. one that can be readily drawn upon when needed. -- Random House Webster's college Dictionary

Writers tend to be solitary creatures. Of course, many of us have day jobs where we interact with the public and we do a fine job of it. When we're writing, however, we draw from deep within ourselves. Even when surrounded by people, the writing itself happens in a bubble of our own creation.

When we emerge from that bubble, we may need something besides sleep and food. We may need validation that we're not wasting our time, answers to questions relating to our plots, or advice from those who've gone before, shining a flashlight along the trail we have yet to travel.

Do you have that resource amongst your family, friends, or local critique group? If you do, you are one of the lucky few. If you don't, you may seek that writing companionship elsewhere.

Forward Motion has met this need for me and for countless others. I've been here for seven years. Admittedly the community was much smaller when I joined, so perhaps it was easier to find like-minded folk at that time. Even though the site may seem overwhelmingly large and complicated to newcomers, there are still plenty of ways to connect with this human resource and make life-long friends at the same time.

Let me offer a few tips, but be warned. It does take some effort on your part!

1. Check out the specific boards for the genres that interest you most. Some of them don't see a lot of action. If you can think of something to add to a recent thread, or -- better yet -- a new question you'd like answered, post a reply or start a new topic. It's hard for lurkers to feel connected. Step out there and say something!

2. The Announcements board will tell you what kinds of challenges, dares, marathons, workshops, and classes are currently going on. Not sure what all of those are? Follow the links from their announcement posts to see if these extra pushes seem like they may help you. In many cases, these draw fairly small groups and are most effective when there is a lot of participation. You may well find folks here who are on a similar path as yours and you can encourage each other.

3. Get involved with critiquing. This is absolutely the best way to improve your own writing, possibly even better than actually writing itself. How can that be? Often we see errors and sloppy habits in other writers' work and then suddenly (with a sharp crack to the forehead) realize why it looks so obvious -- we've seen it in our own work but not recognized it until now. Seeing how others critique (always politely, as per the board rules!) may help you find long-term writing partners.

4. Other areas at Forward Motion that tends to group folks together are the various goal-setting boards. This close-knit community is open to anyone who wants to join in. Folks share their writing goals and then return to report on how well they're meeting them, giving others the chance to respond and encourage. Numerous solid friendships and critique partners have emerged from this pool.

5. You can find people with similar non-writing interests as well, from ESL speakers to pet-fanciers to parents or computer geeks. Sharing specific concerns and support on these boards can also lead to the resource of friends.

6. I'm mentioning chat last, but not least. There is nothing like the rapid-fire exchange that happens in chat to get momentum going. If there are too many people in there and you feel overwhelmed, try again at a different time of day or week. Same if it's too quiet. I've asked questions in chat when stumped with an area of my own writing and had ten solid answers in two minutes. Something is sure to jolt you moving again.

In all of these cases, it may seem that the connections are superficial, at least at first. Friendship takes time, and just like in Real Life, it's not likely you'll get more out of it than you put in. When you see folks whose path often intertwines with yours, make note of their usernames. Try to see if you can reply to their posts, or perhaps PM (private message) them something that may be of additional help. Not in a stalking way, of course, but in a way that shows your desire to be a friend. This may well lead to email exchanges, planned chats, and perhaps face-to-face meetings if practical.

My writing buddies do what is necessary to help me meet my goals. They word-war me, they goad me, they crack jokes at my expense, they plead with me, and they offer sympathy when needed. They critique my work. They encourage me to enter contests, and ask me how many agents I've queried. They keep me accountable. And I do the same for them -- because we're friends. I wouldn't be at this stage if it weren't for them. And I wouldn't have met them and gotten to know them if it wasn't for FM.

Online writing communities come and go, but Forward Motion has grown and thrived. Why? Because of its people. We -- all of us collectively -- are its most valuable resource.