Note: this post originally appeared on Cville’s WriterHouse blog.
When I moved to Charlottesville a year ago, I spent my first three months holed up in my townhouse, writing furiously. Four hundred pages and zero social interactions later, I knew something had to give.
Writing is a solitary endeavor, but the extrovert in me was losing it. I clung to the salespeople at Belk because they sounded so genuine when they asked how my day was.
“Great!” I sobbed, clawing at their sensible lapels. “I just moved here from New Jersey, and it’s really great to be in this mall with all of these people and bright lights!”
I’d moved to Charlottesville to get uncomfortable, to shift out of my corporate routine and into a creative one. But I discovered something in those first months: writing without company felt less like a kick in the ass and more like a blanket of isolation and despair.
I shook my post-verbiage shell shock by connecting with my local literary community. In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to be surrounded by caring, supportive writers, and I want to share three easy ways you can do the same.
1. Take a Class
Nothing gets conversation moving like shared experience. In-class prompts, readings, and homework assignments not only sharpen your skills, they also offer weekly connections to like-minded writers.
Classes at Writerhouse gave me a respite from the dark and lonely places in my mind, the fear of the hours it takes to get a few words peppered on the page. I’m a real addict—I just finished my third non-fiction class—and the people I’ve met have been just as special as my education. Some of us even meet outside of class to continue writing together. Bonus!
2. Get Social
November is winding down, but NaNoWriMo is still in full swing. National Novel Writing Month is the perfect time to introduce yourself to writers in Charlottesville and across the country.
Twitter is a lonely writer’s paradise in November, when @NaNoWordSprints challenges writers to write as much as possible in given time frames. Take on their prompts, including key words and plot twists, and you’ll get involved in the conversation fast.
You should also search #NaNoWriMo on Twitter. You’ll discover a list of writers who encourage one another, and you can follow and engage with those who share your interests. I recommend starting with @CvilleWrimos.
3. Share Your Story
The easiest way to expand your literary network is to simply introduce yourself as a writer. Too many people hesitate to share their interest in writing, defeating themselves with ideas like “I have a day job, so I’m not really a writer,” or “I haven’t published anything yet, so my work doesn’t even count.” Self-criticism comes standard with a writer’s temperament, but it shouldn’t stop you from owning your art.
As soon as you say to a new acquaintance, “My name is _______, and I am a writer,” a world of connections will open to you. Everyone knows someone who is a writer, especially in Charlottesville, and once you share your passion with the world, the world will come to you.
Your Community Is Waiting
One year ago, I faced a long, dark winter without many friendships and too much angst about my work. Now I meet for weekly lunches with a tight-knit group of women, and we hold each other accountable to our writing goals. I’ve met journalists and essay writers, storytellers and poets, and I quietly thank the passion that binds us. If you’re reading this piece, I suspect you share it too, and once you start looking, you’ll find us everywhere.