Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Until about a month ago, my writing experience had always been a solitary one. Sure I’d taken writing classes before and participated in feedback forums and peer editing, but a vast majority of my time consisted of me sitting in front of my computer, daydreaming about the stories I’d never write.
As an avid member of the Instagram community, I’ve realized that it is easier now than ever to interact with other writers and readers. In a time of zines, online communities, and outreach organizations, the bridge between creators and their consumers has become a lot smaller. Rather than pushing our audience away for the feeling of exclusivity or superiority, I think we should work to get rid of the differentiation entirely. One of the best ways to learn is by studying in the field. Instagram is your field. Your peers’ blogs are your field. Literary zines and journals are your field.
That’s what it means to be a good literary citizen. A good literary citizen participates in every aspect of the cycle, from creation to consumption.
As a writer, you create. You put content out there for people to read and enjoy, but the job doesn’t end there. You, as a literary citizen, have the responsibility to reciprocate. You must be a consumer as well, taking in the art or the words of your peers.
While this might sound time-consuming and difficult, there are so many benefits to being a good literary citizen. First, as an artist, you know how much it means to have someone support your work. I personally love receiving likes and reposts and seeing people interacting with my content. Comments about how much my work may have resonated with someone never fail to make my day. By supporting other artists, you are sharing this love and receiving this appreciation in return.
Consuming the works of artists in your community also means that you can learn from them. What is this writer doing that I want to emulate? What is this artist doing that I admire? What can I learn from them? Your peers will teach you things you wouldn’t have ever learned in a traditional classroom, whether it be about who their favorite characters are, how to create an unforgettable villain, or even what book is one you need to read next.
I also find that scrolling through the websites of all of these zines (and trust me, there are a lot of them) brings me unbridled joy and inspiration. I love seeing other artists succeed and joining them on their journey, regardless of where they might be. I might see an article that I want to tackle from a different angle or a piece of artwork that inspires me to write something new.
Writing, as with many of the arts, isn’t something that you can necessarily succeed in even if you consistently get A-pluses in school. Success isn’t guaranteed even if you've been published multiple times. Shallow checklists aren’t going to make you a better writer.
What’s going to make you a better writer is the way you interact with your fellow writers and their magazines, the way you learn from rejection, and celebrate acceptances.
The literary community is bursting with creativity, challenges, and new ideas. That said, it’s also a two-way street. To make the most out of all of these resources, you have to contribute your time, energy, and love into the community as well.
Support other writers and artists. The love and knowledge you’ll receive in return is invaluable!
Follow Cindy on Instagram: @cindytranwrites