We all have the image of the starving writer, sitting in an attic on the Left Bank of Paris, wearing a beret and living on coffee and red wine.
The truth is most writers would be starving if they only write for a living and most can't afford to get to Paris so they're living on mac and cheese or Vegemite toast (and coffee and red-wine) in their country of origin. That image is correct in as much as writing is a lonely and generally solitary existence and people who talk to the characters in their head for fun can get a little bit nuts.
Lucky for us in the 21st century there are lots of ways to write and curb the loneliness are isolation.
Here are five suggestions for anyone starting out or anyone just sitting at home pulling out their hair strand-by-strand.
1. Join a writers' group
The truth is a writers group is the very best way to connect with other writers. It seems like a really scary thing to do and it takes courage to leave your home with your precious novel, poem or play and go share it with complete strangers and it is. On the other hand these are people who love writing, love reading and know exactly what you are going through.
So how do you find a writer's group in your area?
In Australia every state has a Writers Center and there are also several regional centers. They host writer's groups and they have lists of groups you can join and get in touch with. (Check out my Writing Resources page for a few of them).
There are also wonderful writing organisations that offer writing groups and critique partners such as The Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of Australia. Find a group and take a chance.
Not every group is a good fit for you, but don't be put off if the first one you try isn't right. Your people are out there.
2. Attend a writers' conference and oragnisation
The first time you attend a writers conference is terrifying but the opportunities you gain far out-weight the vomit-inducing fear. Every weekend all over the world there are writers conferences taking place. Some are genre specific, which is perfect for many, but lots are not and there really is a conference for everyone.
Not only will a conference help you feel less alone because you will be surrounded by writers you will learn new skills, hone your craft and make friends. Of course you won't make friends if you hide in your room mainlining coffee so go mainline coffee in the breakout rooms.
I know lots of people who have met their best friends, writing partners and literary soul mates at writing conferences. You could too.
Even if you don't do a conference first off most writing organisations offer great workshops, newsletters, online resources and other opportunities for you to work on your craft and be in contact with others.
3. National Novel Writing Month
This is an event that takes place every November where like-minded people across the globe all endeavour to write a 50,000 word novel.
There is a vibrant online community you can join who will help encourage you, plug plot holes and answer your research questions. More than that they hold local events such as write-ins, overnight parties and other gatherings. You can meet writers in your genre and in your hometown. That's got to be a good thing.
4. Facebook Groups
Social media is supposed to be social. Those cat and dinner photos are fantastic but that's not really the idea. There are thousands of Facebook groups just for writers and they're a great way to connect with others. Whether you write chicklit, speculative fiction, historical romance or thrillers your tribe is out there on Facebook wanting to help you. Do a search and you'll be surprised who you find.
NB. Some groups can be full of trolls (though that hasn't been my experience) so just read for a few days before diving in if that is a concern for you.
Do you love a #hashtag? Well, then your people may well be on twitter. There are lots of very popular hashtags where you can connect with others. #amwriting, #amreading, #amblogging for example. Most writing groups have their own as well. If you're twitter savvy you'll have no trouble finding a hastag where you can connect with people.
These are just five very easy ways. If you have any other suggestions I'd love to hear them.