The search for my place in the writing community feels never-ending. But as I soaked in the tub, forcing myself to do something other than work (or think about how I should be working but can’t), it dawned on me: I’ve been a part of this community for a long time. I’ve just been choosing to ignore it. Maybe it’s just that I’m in my angsty teen phase of my writing career, where I want to rebel against the foundations of what makes the writing community what it is. Or maybe I’m always just going to feel a little bit on the outside looking in. Either way, I’ve been blatantly ignoring my own active participating in the literary community. I’ve been ignoring my own literary citizenship.
I can’t discuss my literary citizenship without first calling out how it’s a self-serving thing. I love reading books, especially new books, but working as a freelancer doesn’t exactly give me a stable income. So being part of NetGalley, and being given access to free books before they come out, has saved me a lot of money. In return, I’ve been able to review some really amazing books across multiple platforms. I’ve been able to suggest upcoming titles to friends. Maybe this boosts pre-sales. Maybe this just puts a book on someone’s radar when it would not have otherwise been. Maybe it doesn’t do anything other than let the author know that their book has been read and enjoyed enough to leave a good review.
And of course I try and take part in as many blog tours or giveaways or calls for things that my schedule allows. I do want to support my fellow writers–but I also would hope that, when the time came, they’d support me too.
The other part of being a literary citizen for me is that I really do care a lot about this community, about this part of the world that still lives and breathes the written word. Books, essays, think-pieces on the latest Beyonce release–it doesn’t matter. I love that there are still people out there who care enough to write about it in a world where YouTube videos on similar topics gain hundreds of thousands of views. I love that there are still websites that pay writers when they publish their essays or listicles or whatever the latest trend in content is.
Being a literary citizen isn’t about competition, either. It’s not about looking at our writing friends and comparing ourselves to them. It’s not about who is more successful, but, instead, celebrating success.
We need to look out for each other, no matter what publishing patch we take. We need to reach out and make sure our writing friends are doing okay, or support our favorite content publisher before they announce that they’re shutting their website down. Support shouldn’t just come when a person is having a bad day, or someone says they just can’t do something anymore. Support should be steady. Unwavering.
At the end of the day, as writers, we’re all on the same side. We all are hoping that someone puts down the television remote and picks up any device they can read our words on. It’s not about what degree you have, whether or not you have an agent, whether or not you’ve published–these are not the things that set us apart.
So you’re going to notice an un-tick of me re-tweeting things my followers are publishing or celebrating. You’re going to notice my amount of reading recommendations, whether it be books or essays, go up. Because maybe I haven’t been the best literary citizen in the past. Maybe I have been too focused on what’s going on with my own writing career to really be able to be there for others.
The thing is, we’re just about halfway through 2016 and up until now there has been a lot of negativity in my life. I feel like I’ve been taking that out largely on the writing community.
It’s time to turn that around.
What does being a literary citizen mean to you? How are you doing your part to be a good literary citizen?