Creative Community Isn’t That Scary

Even though I don’t fit in with the introverted, agoraphobic, germaphobic writer stereotype (see Alex Rover from “Nim’s Island”), I have to agree with them on one thing: People can be scary. That said, people can also be good friends. (Not as good friends as main characters or anything, but still, pretty good.) And good friends are usually willing to help you with your writing, if you ask them.

What Good are Friends?

Humans can’t see our own flaws. It’s our nature. We’re bound by a predisposed predisposition to get stuck in our own ruts. We all have tunnel vision. We can’t see things outside our original outline.

(A second truth about humans is this: we’re really, really good at seeing each other’s problems. I mean seriously, really, really, good. However, this post isn’t about critiques… this one is.)

Anyway, a friend isn’t bound by your tunnel vision, and can help you escape into the fresh air of freedom… and fantastic, well-developed, coherent novel ideas.

But People are Scary…

You’ve heard it before. Building a creative community is important.   Finding a Brainstorming Buddy can change your life. Other authors are great resources.  Yeah, that’s great, you say, but guys… other people. Whether you just aren’t comfortable around others, or you’re intimidated with the idea of having to walk into a group of locals you don’t know and call them your “community” (much less having to call them all together and organize a community,) participating in a creative community can be a story changer. (Literally, and figuratively.)

Take the step

But take courage, it’s not actually as scary as all that. We all have friends, some better than others. Chances are, some of us have already shared some of our writing with our close friends. If you haven’t, just give it a try. Your friends are you friends, after all. They’re on your side. Bring them into the know about your writing… and they become part of your creative community.

Action is the key here. I spent months fiddling around with the idea of organizing a critique group/brainstorming unit from some local writers I knew. Of course, all I ever did was fiddle with the idea; I never actually got up the nerve to take steps to bringing people together. That was kinda scary.

But then I got stuck. Real stuck. I was about ten- thousand words into my manuscript and it wasn’t working. I knew I needed to rework my outline… but beyond that, I knew I needed fresh ideas. On an impulse, I called up one of those writer friends of mine and asked him if he had a minute. After a quick explanation of my basic story and my problem, my friend started talking. He’d say something, which would make something click in my head, then I’d say “Yeah, and if that then…” and when I hit another road block, he would start talking again.

My story got much better in a matter of minutes.

It wasn’t a call I regretted.


Don’t Turn Back, Give Back

I may not have realized it at the time, but I’d just started a brainstorming community. All that time I’d been thinking about it, and then, in a matter of minutes, it was done. I didn’t have to schedule a big event, try to find a time that worked with a dozen different schedules, I didn’t have to drive anywhere, and no one had to drive to come see me.

Phones are wonderful things.

But creative communities must be fostered. You can’t let them die; and I had no intention to. I was back within the week. “What do you think of this? Would this be more interesting, or this? Do you think that’s enough for the scene, or should I add more?” The questions kept coming.

It never hurts to ask, is what I found. But it does cost. Even if it’s free for you, someone has to give their time and their creative energy to help you with your novel. How can you repay them? Well, it’s actually fairly simple. Just remember that to someone else, you are ‘someone else’. Repay the favor to your brainstorm buddy. Say whatever comes to mind as you answer their questions, that’s your job. You’re supposed to say the crazy stuff that they can’t even think.

Keep it Going

Having someone to help you with your brainstorming is a fantastic blessing. Nothing will help you develop a plot like a good friend. Keep asking questions, keep answering theirs. Sure, people are scary sometimes… but they’re also pretty great.

(And really, really helpful.)



Photo: Two hands in the steam, David Rosen, CC BY 2.0

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Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.


  1. Kameron Striplin March 26, 2016 at 1:59 PM - Reply

    But peeeeeeple
    In all seriousness, this is very true. Especially for self-esteem, which (despite the stereotype) is actually important for writers to have. I was about ready to give up on my novel – I absolutely hated it. Made me drag my feet a few years. But then I went to the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop and my critique group loved my excerpts. So I went home, looked at them again, and thought “You know, it’s not so bad.”
    My second draft is fantastic so far, I have to say.

  2. Laura March 22, 2016 at 5:39 PM - Reply

    Sounds like my experience all over again. What should’ve been a one hour “hi, what’s up?” video chat with an OYAN buddy wound up being a five hour brainstorm session… We probably would have gone longer only dinner got in the way=/ I’m now having to deal with my tendency to get excited, swamping her with my issues and forgetting to return the favor. XD

    • Brandon March 24, 2016 at 9:33 AM Reply

      Yeah. It’s important to pay the community back…
      But guys, they’re so helpful!!! 😀

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