How Joining a Community of Writers Changed Me
This month our Rising Voices Fellows reflect on their experiences of the fellowship over the past year. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
Before this year, I had always viewed writing as a solitary process. I wrote alone, revised little and only sought feedback after a piece was complete. Rising Voices has given me the gift of community both inside and outside of the Fellowship—writing has become a collaborative process and I and my work are better for it. I’ve learned three primary lessons in this area from my peers, from my teachers, from my editors, and from my friends.
Phone a Friend. I haven’t published anything in the last few months without at least one friend giving me comments; every time, I am prouder of the edited piece than I was of the original. A fresh set of eyes is crucial in catching inconsistencies, spelling errors, and gaps in your reasoning. I remember a particular post in which I used a term that was familiar to me, but not commonly used—my peer editor was crucial in catching it, and the definition was vital to the point I made in the piece.
With all the writing I have done recently, every time I ask a friend to edit me, they ask a question that I had never considered, and force me to confront new perspectives. They point out questions that I hadn’t realized I was answering, so I can answer them better, and ask new questions to broaden my scope.
Trust. As a writer, I get very attached to my words. I turn verbiage over and over in my head, adjusting until I get a phrase I like. It’s very hard to adjust diction or an idea when confronted by (an aforementioned) friend and editor about what would make a piece better. I have often disregarded a suggestion like “consider shortening this paragraph,” only to be told later by a professional editor that I had to shorten the paragraph. I’ve learned to trust people who give me critique; most of the time, they really do know best.
People want to help you. It’s easy to feel like you’re annoying someone, especially a professional. (This is probably a gendered problem, come to think of it.) Every time I email an adult to ask for editing help for a piece whose topic I’m not well-versed in, I tend to get nervous, concerned that I’m bothering this person who I look up to. When I wrote about intersectionality, for example, one of Rising Voices’ facilitators suggested I contact a blogger who I know and admire; she was tremendously helpful, and I felt much more confident about my piece after she edited it and suggested sources.
I’ve found that people are glad to help an aspiring young feminist writer; sisterhood is powerful, and this strength of the feminist movement applies across generations and over the internet.
I was recently given the opportunity to lead a session for peers about something that was important to me. I chose to discuss blogging, and attempted to give my friends a window into what it’s like for me to write a blog post. In planning, I realized that it was imperative that I ask my friends to read and edit each other’s work; collaboration has become an integral part of the way I experience writing. I look forward to the future; I hope to further create and participate in communities of writers, people who share my passions and interests and from whom I can learn.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Halpern, Avigayil. "How Joining a Community of Writers Changed Me." 2 May 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 6, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/how-joining-community-of-writers-changed-me>.