New writer? Find community.

grow and evolve by writing in community

It feels like just yesterday when I was overwhelmed and anxious about the idea of completing a novel. I was a new writer looking at a huge mountain and I was certain I did not have the skills to climb it. I am so grateful that I stuck to it and that I overcame the hurdles in my path. I am beyond excited about my completed novel and I feel a definite accomplishment knowing I can make it to the finish line of such a large goal. If I was to give a new writer the biggest tip that helped me accomplish my novel, I know what I would say.

My very biggest tip is to, if you can, connect with a healthy community of creatives. This is a big ask, of course, and it takes time to find the type of support you need. But whether it be online or in person, I highly recommend witnessing, and being witnessed, as a writer. It has been essential to my growth to have done writing workshops and clinics and to attend and perform at readings. So much of writing starts and lives inside the artists mind, but I see the ultimate goal of good writing is to have it work its magic on persons other than just the writer. It is powerful to know how your writing does, or does not, affect the reader. This knowledge can make you stronger as a writer. I know that I would not have achieved the level of quality production with my writing without being a part of several communities that supported my writing’s growth.

I most enjoyed generative writing clinics, where I was challenged to write in a short amount of time, then get critiqued from my peers. These style of workshops became my lifeline when I was starting out as a novel writer. I found that the atmosphere of focusing on writing with other writers also trying their best gave me confidence I sometimes struggled with when writing alone. Hearing how my writing hit to others gave me vision towards how I wanted to further craft that and remaining sections. If I had to do it all over, I would do the same, even go to more clinics. I really appreciate that I know how my writing affects many different types of audiences and going into my launch, I feel confident that I wrote a novel that speaks to many.

But there are many styles of witnessing for writing. I have also attended workshops where writers bring in pages with copies that get critiqued and returned. Open mics are a great way to expose new writing to an audience for feedback. Or I have been a part of online workshops where we have assignments, including group writing projects, that are turned in to be graded. Of course, there’s also certificate and degree programs and even group retreats, like one I launched called Writers Emerging, where writers can drop in with a cohort for an extended time of craft, critique, and revision.

However you find your community, remember they are their in support of you and making your voice heard on the page. You can always either accept or dismiss their advice, but even if you dismiss their feedback, you are still wiser for the knowledge. I wish you luck in finding your personal style and having it reinforced as unique and valuable by others.

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Yodassa Williams is a powerful conjurer of black girl magic (70% Jedi, 30% Sith). A Jamaican American writer, speaker, and award winning performing storyteller, alumna of the VONA/Voices Travel Writing program and creator of the podcast ‘The Black Girl Magic Files’, Yodassa (Yoda) launched ‘Writers Emerging' in 2019, a wilderness writing retreat for women of color and non-binary people of color. In 2020, Yodassa's debut YA Fantasy, The Goddess Twins, will be published by Spark Press. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and currently resides in the Bay Area.

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