Writing is a solitary activity, that’s for sure. And that solitude, for some people, can really help them feel productive and creative.
Even as an extrovert, I find that there are times that I need to be alone in order to get work done, whether it’s editing, writing, or communicating with the team at CYC.
Last summer, though, I reached a breaking point with my remote work lifestyle. It took a few months of working alone at home, or in coffee shops, all the time, for me to realize just how alone I truly felt.
One day it hit me: I’m not a person who enjoys working alone. I am not an introvert.
Being alone started to take a toll on my mental health and thus my ability to get work done. Lack of motivation, lack of energy, and general apathy started to take over, making projects that I loved to do very taxing and frustrating.
After lying in bed in the middle of a sunny summer afternoon—on a weekday—too many days in a row due to lack of energy, I knew something had to change. I needed to find some type of community to help me find that energy again.
Working remotely was still the ideal setup for me even as an extrovert, so in true digital-age fashion, I began my search for a community where many people likely do—on Facebook.
I started with searching broadly for Facebook groups for remote workers, and remote professional writers. I found several writing groups that seemed interesting, but then realized this social interaction would still be confined to the digital space.
I narrowed my search, then, to the city I live in, which led me to find a group on Meetup.com for remote coworking and social gatherings. The description read something along the lines of, “Do you work remotely, but you want to be around people while you work? Are you a bit of an extrovert who is trying to function as an introvert, and it isn’t working out? Join us!”
I couldn’t have written a better description of what I was looking for in a group if I had written it myself.
I hadn’t really considered a group like this before, since I was so focused on finding a community only made up of writers and editors. But once I joined the digital side of this Meetup group, I discovered the people who established the group were also writers and editors who were extroverts and didn’t want to work alone at home with their cat anymore.
The first time I met up with the coworking group, I learned that this group was not just writers and editors. It was a huge mix of people who work remotely doing a wide variety of things—software development, content marketing, accounting, business management, you name it.
If you’re a professional writer, this is actually a great combination to find—you can chat with other writers about writing things, and chat with business-minded people about business-y things that come with running your own business as a writer.
For me personally, I was nervous about how it would be to work on my own stuff in the company of people who aren’t writers. Would they understand that I’m not ignoring them when I’m focusing intently on whatever I’m writing or editing?
Fortunately, the others who were there for the coworking meetup needed to focus on their own work, too. And just as I had hoped, there were periods of time throughout the day where someone else would look up from their laptop, heave a heavy sigh, and ask, “So, how’s your day going?” Just like an office co-worker would do.
Simply the change of working around other people helped me find a new spark, and I was able to get much more done in a shorter period of time. Plus, during the moments when we all chatted, I learned a lot about the habits of other remote workers and received great advice.
Many others had great suggestions for how to stay motivated, how to be organized, how to maintain professional connections, and how to grow a business—topics that helped me as a professional writer and editor outside of writing and editing tips.
When coworking with a community of non-writers, you never know what you’ll learn when you meet someone new who works in an industry entirely separate from yours.
While it worked out pleasantly well for me to find a cool group of people coworking together and working on their own stuff, it might take a while to find a group that’s the right fit for you.
Something I realized was that there were particular days when I really wanted another writer to talk to, like a writing partner of sorts—someone who was working on similar projects to mine, and who could lend an empathetic ear when I needed to talk out an idea. Fortunately, there were a few writers in the group, so we would coordinate our schedules to cowork together on particular days of the week.
When searching for a community that’s the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to try out several different groups. I considered joining an in-person Meetup for local writers, but from reading the description and emails from the moderator, I realized this wouldn’t be a great fit for someone like me who needs to talk to others, not just write in silence for sustained periods of time.
In addition to my regular coworking Meetup, I would sometimes attend smaller coffee shop Meetups with a different group of people who wanted company while working on their own projects. This group had a very different feel—it was more social and conversational, rather than heads-down productive time, and on days when I needed to socialize, I opted to join that group for a coffee.
Consider your own needs first—do you need writers to read your drafts and provide you with feedback? Or do you need to simply be around other people?
Maybe you’re looking for a community who can provide you with business ideas—in that case, finding remote entrepreneurs may be what you need to search for.
But if you don’t jibe well with the first group you meet with, don’t be discouraged. There are so many different types of groups out there, both online and in person.
Whether you enjoy writing alone, or you’re finding yourself talking to your cat (or yourself) more often than you’d like, there’s a community out there for everyone. Writers who spend most of their time alone will likely need a community to talk to at some point or another.
What matters most is that you consider the qualities you’d like in a community in order to find the right fit.
Once you find a community that energizes you and makes you feel passionate about your work again, you’ll know you found the right one.
Julia Hess graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Master of Arts degree in English. She has worked as a college writing tutor and instructor, a contractor at a major tech company, and a freelance editor and writer. An avid podcast listener, Julia provides editorial feedback, consultation, and detailed show notes for CYC’s podcast, Writers Rough Drafts.