The Importance of Like-Minded People

First published on the Antithesis blog.

I just sat down to write this article today, but it’s been burning inside of me for a week. 

Last weekend I went to my first writing workshop, hosted by Writers Victoria in Melbourne. The day was tailored for young writers under the age of twenty-five, and at twenty-four I scraped in.

I felt doubtful when I walked in. I was definitely one of the older ones there and I didn’t fit in. The group seemed like quirky high school and uni students; people who spent their time writing, editing or reading their own work, student publications or the local lit mags (I didn’t know all of this for sure, but it seemed like a safe assumption). And there I was, a full-time corporate worker, looking the opposite of quirky with my blue jeans, grey knit, matching brown leather boots, watch and bag, and a frequent reader of traditional fantasy and classics. But I was there to mingle, so I made small talk with others who were there on their own (I confess, I targeted the older ones).

We were discussing the elements of fiction at the start of the first session, which was a topic that had already been covered in my writing course. But then my doubtful feeling returned after doing some writing exercises that were shared with the group. I was impressed by the writing of everyone in the room, particularly the youngest participant, who was only in year eight for crying out loud!

That was when I started feeling a different kind of doubt. Over half of the group were much younger than me, and here they were already aware they wanted to be writers, already honing their craft and even having some of their work published. Was I behind? What difference would it make if I had studied writing straight out of high school? What level would I be at now?

In hindsight I know it’s silly to think these things. I made a choice to study graphic design, to go straight from my design course into full-time work, and as a result I’ve been able to save money, to travel and to pay for my online writing course, which is full-fee (but definitely worth it). I took a break from writing and I can’t compare myself to people who have been writing longer than I have.

But back to the workshop. As the speaker discussed the publishing industry and her experiences, my interest skyrocketed and I listened eagerly. The next two sessions focused on a writer’s toolkit – how to pitch, promote yourself and use social media – and a panel on how the literary magazine industry works here in Melbourne.

We had lunch as a group and it was refreshing to ask someone bluntly what their favourite book was, or what kind of writing they were interested in. I have only one or two friends who I can put those questions to, and they’re friends I don’t see often. I found it so inspiring to meet other people who were working towards the same thing I was: improving their writing, looking for opportunities to be published, and now, building a writing network. I met a girl my age who was also working full-time and studying writing part-time. It was a hallelujah moment – there are others out there like me!

We ended the day by adding each other on Twitter and Facebook (I set up a Twitter account for myself the next day) and setting up a Facebook group to share work and ideas in the future. I really didn’t want the momentum to stop; I wanted the motivation from that day to keep flowing and to maintain the connections I made, even if it’s only sporadic communication.

I’ve been consistently writing for about two years now, but this week feels different.
I finally feel like I’m part of a community, that it’s not merely about sitting alone at my desk looking for the right words, but that there’s a whole bunch of people doing exactly the same thing here in Melbourne, across Australia and the world. I’ve spent the last week reading, editing my stories, buying journals I haven’t read before and keeping a new spreadsheet to organise submissions and opportunities. I really believe I can do this. I believe I can make this writing thing work and that I can be good at it.

It’s pretty damn exciting.