Community has always been at the core of my writing practice. Growing up, I had friends, both in person and online, who were also writers. After high school I grew distant from some of those people, and others lost interest in writing over time, but I found community again at university in a writing-heavy program and specifically through creative writing courses. Towards the end of my degree I co-founded a creative writing club, which formalized that community and drew in others from across the school. After graduation, when my activity in the club necessarily diminished, I was lucky enough to connect with a friend who had started her own writing group, called the New Cambrians.
Of the above endeavours, it is that writing group that I have found to be most rewarding in its combination of consistent structure and friendly support. Twice a month we meet up (previously in person, currently over video chat), drink tea, update each other on our projects, talk about books, discuss craft, and engage with a writing prompt. These are also people I can come to when I need feedback on a piece, and I get to flex my critiquing skills in turn.
Feedback and critique are vital skills for writers. An outside eye can spot issues with a piece that the writer has become blind to, making the solicitation of feedback a necessary step in revision, but providing critique for others is just as important. Doing so forces a writer to think carefully about what does and does not work in a story, and engaging in conversation around these aspects allows one to understand the choices that go into making a story great. This can be done with anything you read to some degree, but you can get the most insight by speaking directly to the author, and since most of us won’t be chatting up Alice Munro, opens a new window any time soon, having a group of peers to share feedback with is an ideal solution.
Even more valuable to me is simply having someone to talk to about my writing. When I have a meeting with my writing group coming up, I put in more effort in order to be able to say that yes, I have been productive recently. When I embark on something new or achieve something profound, I have people with whom I can celebrate. When I am struggling, when life events have kept me from writing as much as I would like, the New Cambrians commiserate with me. After all, they each have their own ups and downs, their own struggles, that they share with me as well.
The last two years or so have not been great for a variety of reasons. With dwindling job prospects, especially for those who work in the arts, and the added stress of living under a pandemic, maintaining a creative output has been difficult for many. Under these conditions, the New Cambrians have felt less like a writing group and more like a support group at times, but what could be more essential for a writer? Now more than ever, I need to know that what I do has value, that writing has a point, that it is worth working through the stress.
If you are having a hard time writing lately, I implore you to find someone to share your struggle with. Writing can be lonely, but when I am with my writing group, I feel less alone.
EPL Featured Writer Davis G. See is a gay Edmontonian and graduate of MacEwan University’s Bachelor of Communication Studies program. While a student, he co-founded the Bolo Tie Collective, a creative writing club at MacEwan that continues to publish an annual anthology. His prose has appeared in Vitality Magazine, opens a new window, Crab Fat Magazine, opens a new window, WestWord Magazine, opens a new window, and the Edmonton International Airport’s short story dispenser, while his poetry has found a home in Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman, opens a new window. He also writes video games and interactive fiction, including for the upcoming puzzle game OtherWordly. His other interactive work can be found at https://davisgsee.itch.io.
Be sure to read Davis' recommended reading list called Queer Across Age.