This is a throw-back to that time when I went to AWP, the biggest writing conference in North America. And before you ask, yes, there were times when I was in that crowded building, talking to countless people at Room's marketplace table when my inner monologue was shouting, I'm an introvert, just leave me alone with the books!
It can be tough being surrounded by so many people. But after years of building a writing network and community, I know that a writing life without writing connections won't take me far. Writing connections can help me build the writing career I want.
For one thing, when you surround yourself with writing friends, you suddenly know people who may go on to find publishers they can connect you with, edit literary magazines you want to publish in, and take retreats or courses you would never have heard of without their recommendations.
More importantly, your best writing friends are going to encourage you and keep you going when writing gets tough. (And for most of us, there will be tough times.)
If you don't have many writing connections, or even if you do and you want to make more connections, here are some ways (seven ways, as the headline says!) I have used to build up my writing community over the years.
Go to Readings
If you have no connections yet, the best place to start finding other writers is to go to public readings and events. Your local writer's organization or library may have events, mixers, and readings. Try one out and stick around to socialize after. (Extreme introverts: set a goal to talk to one person by the end of the event.)
Volunteer at Events
Volunteering at a literary event or at a publication is also a great way to meet people. See if any local festivals need volunteers, or ask at your local library. Look around at any literary journals in the area and see if they recruit readers or need help at their events.
Look for the Writers You May Already Know
Think about connections in your current social circle. Any friends or acquaintances who talk about writing a novel? I built my first writing group this way, starting with just one other member, my then-acquaintance, Chad. Of course, this requires a little vetting to make sure your interests align. For us, we both had the same commitment to our writing and were diligent and reliable at workshopping. And we expanded to include new members because it's easier to approach people when you already have a group established. (Though we also thought it was funny to introduce one another to people as "my writing group".)
Find an Established Writing Group
Speaking of writing groups, you could also seek an existing one out. Ask around when you're at an event or see if your local writer's organization or library will help connect writers with the same experience and genre.
Did you notice how many self-professed introverted writers are on social media? I wouldn't suggest spending all your writing time scrolling through #amwriting or #writinglife tweets, but I do think you could find other writers who may even turn into writing friends IRL (in real life, yo) if you use social media to find out about opportunities for writers in your area.
Take a Workshop
Probably the best shortcut to creating a writing community—at least it was for me—is to take a workshop or join a writing program. This is a little deeper commitment because they usually cost money, but consider your investment a filter. You know you'll be surrounded by other writers as serious as you are about improving their writing because they paid to be there. This doesn't have to be a formal university program. Local writing organizations may offer something you're really keen to learn about and you'll meet other writers committed like you.
Try a Writing Retreat
If you already have a writing workshop and a volume of work you can use as a portfolio, grow your writing community on a writing retreat or residency. (Shout out to the Banff Wired Writers Studio, where Chad and I both had the fortune to go.)
There you go. These are just a few ways you can get connected to other writers. If you're just warming up to the idea, start smaller than the biggest writing conference in North America. (I did.)