Writing is a lonely endeavor. It’s an art punctuated with solitude, an itch in your skin you can only really soothe with sustained silence and the slow sprawl of words. But everyone has those moments of dissatisfaction, or brief spaces when they’re terrified of failing, wanting someone to tell them they are on the right track. There are moments when you want to know your writing has a voice, is something worthwhile. And I think that’s where the community part of art comes in.
I went to the Alabama School of Fine Arts, a high school that sought to bring artists together. Every week, creative writers would turn in something and critique a group of poems; we had food and readings, discussed and agonized over work, and grew—in writing, in body, in heart. Looking back, I will always be grateful to have found a place for my work. The suggestions given in critique were an instrumental part of my development; reading others’ work for workshops influenced me in a greater way than I can recount.
Communities I consider myself a part of are the ASFA community and, to a lesser extent, the online publishing community, because of my literary magazine The Sandstar Review. There are other artist-recognition communities that I have occasional contact with—YoungArts and Scholastic, in particular. I’d like to get more involved in the publishing community, as well as the local community in Tuscaloosa.
Many people think writing is supposed to be a one-person deal: the classic image of the writer hunched over some paper, fervently scribbling away into the dead hours of the night, crossing out lines and writing over them, and submitting manuscripts until one gets published. Eliot and Hemingway were discovered by Pound. The Black Mountain College drew a community of writers whose work broadly influenced the postmodern movement. Writers send letters to friends and engage in discourse on what it is they’re writing—community is a huge influence, one that is often overlooked.
As an artist in the community, I think the most important thing is dialogue. I think people need to be aware of what others are doing, to provide feedback and gain inspiration. Ideas aren’t supposed to be hoarded; they need exposure and input to gain their full potential. Being an artist in a community works in both ways: the artist receives feedback and insight, while the community benefits from their contributions.