I always find it interesting that, as I'm reading author biographies--as I habitually do for classes, for fun, for the sake of my being and knowing and writing, and does it really matter why I read them anyway (no)-- it is always fun for me to note that often great writers were great friends with their contemporaries who were also great writers. It is becoming more and more clear to me, as I indulge my writing--not that I am or ever will be a great writer--that having a writing community is incredibly important to developing my skill, to developing my pieces, to knocking me down any time I mount some high horse. I've also noticed a lot about the collective character of my writing community, and that those whom I consider my writing community are actually only a small portion, and both of these are essential to me.
Firstly, having a writing community is important to the quality, comprehensibility, and significance of my work. I am, mostly, confined to my own perspective as I write, and my own perspective is inherently flawed. I know my intentions in writing and word choice, but my audience does not necessarily. I am also emotionally bound to my writing--often too bound to make the necessary edits. I need people to look over my work and input on whether it does or does not make sense. I need them, too, to tell me if it's anything at all, if my writing is actually good, if my content is viable. I need them to push me to create better work. I had a fellow-writer, writing-community member tell me that I had written a beautiful piece and that my language was beautiful, but that she knew I could do it better. And I keep that in mind as I revise. Of course, the fun part of being a writer and authority on my work is that I don't always have to listen to my community. They do not dictate my writing, but I need them, and I need to be exposed to opinions other than my own.
Secondly, what I have noticed about the few whom I consider part of my writing community is that I consider them great writers. I respect their abilities. I also respect them as people. I respect their view of the purpose of literature; it aligns with my own. I give them my work freely because I know they will be honest and fair. They will tell me if I have written badly or if I have written well. The fact that I respect them is key. Furthermore, I consider myself lucky that I get to read and critique the work of my community. They are excellent.
Of course, as I have mentioned, my community is bigger than this, endless by many perspectives, which brings me to my third point. And I need them too, even if we have differences of opinion, because obligation is good for my character, and, due to my character, I am often surprised by opposing views. I am obligated to gracefully receive critique with which I do not agree or find fair, and that pushes me as a person. It forces me to recognize opposite ways in which my work might be received, it forces me to separate opinion from person, and also to recognize the relationship of person and opinion, and it forces me to love despite. Furthermore, sometimes I am surprised, and that always reminds me why it is essential to listen. Never stop listening; you will stop improving and stop growing.
And this, of course, shows that it is important to have a writing community, but it is also important to have community. It is important to have a community of people whom you respect, and also those who are bigger, beyond. It is important to be obligated, because it creates the opportunities for growth and surprise. Diverse community is essential to the strong individual.