I never took full advantage of the writing community available to me at Carnegie Mellon. Certainly I had friends within it, and some fabulous professors (Hilary Masters and Jane Bernstein in particular), and I loved talking to them about what they were working on, what I was working on, or what we were reading. But I usually skipped out on the myriad of talks and student readings, instead devoting the time to my residents, my friends, or my bed.
Now I sometimes find myself wishing I still had that community handy. Sharing work was both humbling and encouraging — some people wrote better than me, some didn’t. We all tried to provide constructive criticism, regardless. We stayed up late with each other to finish stories. We split pots of coffee and Chinese takeout. We offered suggestions, or kept our mouths shut, whichever was most appropriate. (Or most inappropriate? We loved being inappropriate.)
The community was good to me, and good for me in a lot of ways. I don’t know if I necessarily need(ed) it to improve my writing, but I definitely long for it sometimes.
Since I often look to the internet to solve my problems, I have joined WritingForums.com in the hopes of finding a new writing community there. Right now I don’t have much interest in posting my own work — I’ve got plenty going on, but nothing I want feedback on just now — so I’m just trying to integrate myself into the community, finding interesting works or questions to reply to. So far so good. The range of experience and talent varies widely, and I like the mix. I have yet to determine where exactly I fit within the spectrum, but I don’t think it really matters. My only goals are to advance, and to help others advance. For now, the sky’s the limit.