I’ve heard it said many times that it is vital for a starting author to cultivate their position in the authorial community. Frequent forums, comment and support blogs, and provide what support you can for other starting authors, those were watchwords. Some even would take it to the unfortunate (and unethical) extreme of suppressing negative reviews or inflating them into positive reviews. That, though, is the extreme, and there’s nothing wrong with the rest of it. In fact, taking our own experiences with the art of writing and giving it to others is a way for all of us to improve our craft.
So why is this even a topic for me today? Because I frankly find myself stumbling through it, even after years of practice. Couldn’t tell you precisely why, at least in any specific sense. Part of it, certainly, is a lack of focus on it. Despite my social nature and my love of talking shop, I find it hard to justify taking the many hours it does to network to that extent, to visit dozens of blogs and forums a day, to spend hours of social media maintenance, when I have writing to do, books to read, and planning for future events, not to mention the basic day-to-day of living and raising the money to survive.
To compound that, I certainly made a fair share of missteps early on. For example, not understanding the concept of blog awards and how that community works, I refused a couple early on. Politely, more out of not feeling I deserved any special recognition and also out of confusion of who I would pass nominations along to, but certainly, in hindsight, I no doubt offended in some way those who put the effort up to nominate me. Add to that my unwavering honesty in reviewing, more than willing to introduce critiques and give blunt reviews when needed, it maybe has created a sour note among some people in the broader community, people with more friends and influence than myself. Have I made myself too aloof? I don’t know.
I would argue also, though much of the problem could squarely be put on my shoulders, that there is an element of arcane mysticism to the communities authors create. Many writer’s circles and author’s groups I have encountered in my immediate area are hard to peg down about specifics and hard to maintain contact with. They also present an aura of impenetrable cliquishness and membership requirements of baffling proportions. Maybe it’s just the bad luck of my circumstances or location or timing, but it certainly hasn’t made things easy!
I’m really not sure where I’m going with this in the end, but if you have your own community stories of confusion to share, or can light the way down the road for those of us lost in the mists, you’re encouraged to comment below. I honestly want to try to find ways to see more of the community out there and to spread what help I can (I do try to pump out helpful reviews, ones that hopefully provide real insight to reader and author alike, like a madman between my own work), and, let’s be bluntly honest, I want to feel that community support that can really make or break an author these days.