Here is a simple truth: If you want to survive as writer, you need a literary atmosphere. Despite the fact that writing is often such a solitary act, there's no escaping the fact that we need each other, we need a literary community to keep ourselves going. We need support.\r\n\r\nThink of all the times you\u2019ve sat at your computer, telling yourself 'Today is the day I write my next big story!' - only to find yourself clicking through yet another Buzz Feed quiz, entitled \u2018What Famous City Are You?\u2019 or scrolling through the endless feeds of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, all before the \u2018Welcome\u2019 screen has barely loaded its final 'hello.' Think of\u00a0how many times you\u2019ve told a friend about that project you\u2019re 'currently working on', only to realise it\u2019s been months since you\u2019ve added a single word.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nBeing a part of a literary community is a must for any writer. Image Credit: Grzegorz \u0141obi\u0144ski via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n\r\nNow consider - how often have such instances occurred when you\u2019ve found yourself alone in the writing game? Times when you\u2019ve gone what seems like a short lifetime without speaking to another writer, attending a writer\u2019s event, or possibly even just reading a good book? No doubt these aren\u2019t the only times you\u2019ve found yourself avoiding putting pen to paper (or indeed, fingers to keyboards). Let\u2019s face it; procrastination can strike at any time. But,\u00a0we're\u00a0willing to bet that these crimes of \u2018writer\u2019s avoidance\u2019 (i.e. opening a word document, then proceeding to surf YouTube videos for the next five hours) are far more common when you find yourself without a support group \u2013 without a literary community.\r\nBut what is a literary community, and how can one\u00a0help you as a writer?\r\nPlacing yourself in a 'literary community' can mean any number of things, all of which can be extremely beneficial to writers of all backgrounds. Immersing yourself in a literary environment can keep you motivated, provide inspiration, and improve your writing and editing skills. To further illustrate this, here are some examples of what a literary community may entail, and how such a literary atmosphere can help you, as a writer, thrive!\r\n1. Attend a Writers\u2019 Workshop\r\nNever underestimate the benefits of a workshop. Workshops provide a very rare, and remarkable opportunity to meet, interact, and exchange ideas with a vast array of refreshing, fellow writers. When you attend a workshop, you are truly in the centre of a literary community, and the support you find there can be surprisingly therapeutic.\r\n\r\nIf you have never attended a writers\u2019 workshop, or writers\u2019 group, you should definitely consider enrolling in one. Short courses can be found at places such as the NSW Writers\u2019 Centre, or the Australian Writers\u2019 Centre. It is also worth investigating whether any free writers\u2019 groups are meeting in your local community. For example, those living in the Blue Mountains may wish to look at the Blackheath Creative Writing Group. Alternatively, you can search for writing groups by postcode on\u00a0the NSW Writers' Centre website.\r\n\r\nI myself discovered the true value of writers\u2019 workshops while I was studying at University. As part of my degree, I took a class called \u2018Creative Writing Project.\u2019 This unit was designed as a creative workshop, allowing students to submit their work for group editing sessions. Here, the class would read over submissions together, and offer their own critiques and editing suggestions, in order to help refine the piece. When I attended the first class of the semester, the idea of showing my work to other people terrified me.\r\n\r\nBut here\u2019s the thing about sharing your work with other writers \u2013 they know exactly what that type of anxiety feels like. They\u2019ve all felt it before. They understand you in a way that many others in this world never will. When you share your work with other writers, you don\u2019t have to worry about being torn down, or criticised, or labelled as 'the worst writer in the world.' With other writers, you will be treated with respect, and a huge amount of understanding.\r\n\r\nAs the weeks went on, and I came to realise what a supportive environment I was in, my fear of handing over my own work slowly dissipated. I began to understand that I was not alone. Constructive criticism no longer felt like a personal attack. In fact, any kind of criticism, positive or negative, became far easier to handle.\r\n\r\nIf this had been the only thing I had gained from that class, it would have been more than I had hoped for. But there were other benefits too. Examining the work of others helped me take a critical view on my own work. Suddenly, I was able to take a step back, and examine my writing with the objective eye of an editor. Not only this, but hearing from other students helped shape my writing in ways I would otherwise never have considered.\r\n\r\nWorkshopping is also beneficial for those who intend on having a professional writing career in that it teaches young writers to work collaboratively, which is what they'll do in future with an editor. This experience makes the transition between writing as a hobby and writing as a career much smoother, as the writer is used to\u00a0receiving constructive criticism.\r\n\r\nAnd finally - attending a\u00a0writing workshop allowed me to make some wonderful new friends. Friends who were also writers! And this, as I am about to explain, is another great way to immerse yourself in a literary community.\r\n\r\nFor more information on the benefits of writing workshops\/groups, click here.\r\n2. Make Friends with Other Writers\r\nAs a writer, having a \u2018writing buddy\u2019 is truly an invaluable gift. This is something that, evidently, many famous authors have discovered themselves over the years. Think of writers such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. All of these writers were able to share in a mutually beneficial, literary friendship. (Although, granted, not all of these friendships lasted.) Take, for example, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. How did their friendship benefit them in their writing?\r\n\r\nPerhaps you have heard of T.S. Eliot\u2019s epic poem, The Waste Land? Well, Ezra Pound is essentially responsible for the poem\u2019s final form. When writing The Waste Land, Eliot consulted his fellow poet for advice, and Pound heavily edited the work. The Waste Land is now one of the most famous poems of the entire Modernist period, and no doubt owes a great deal of this fame to Pound\u2019s extensive collaboration.\r\n\r\nWhen we make friends with other writers, we form valuable connections with people who can help make us better at what we do. We can bounce ideas off each other like a sounding board, and help iron out the crinkles in each other\u2019s work. Having friends who are fellow writers is also great for networking. You can help each other connect with others in the industry. Promote each other. Build up each other\u2019s literary community. Eliot, for example, was willing to credit and promote his friend for his contribution to The Waste Land. He dedicated the poem to Ezra Pound, calling him 'il miglior fabbro,' which translates to: 'the better craftsmen.'\r\n3. Attend Writing Festivals\/Events\r\nMuch like Workshops, Festivals can be a great place to meet new people, and exchange ideas on writing. (You could even make a new friend!) But most of all, writing festivals are an ideal location to simply absorb information and knowledge. This can help keep you motivated and inspired when your mind is lacking creative stimulation.\r\n\r\nThe Sydney Writers\u2019 Festival is held every year, but this is not the only event you can attend. You can search for other Literary Festivals in your state or territory by visiting this website here. You should also keep an eye out for any writers\u2019 seminars that may be scheduled in your local area. For example, for those in Western Sydney considering the avenue of self-publishing, a seminar is being held in Parramatta by Jennifer Mosher on the 28th June. (Full details to be found here.)\r\n\r\nBut establishing a literary community is not merely about surrounding yourself with other, literary people. You also need to maintain a literary mindset. To keep yourself breathing in a literary atmosphere. And this is something that you can often achieve on your own\u2026\r\n4.\u00a0Read More\r\nTo truly know how to write, we must first know how to read. Reading helps us gain a natural understanding of writing. The more we read, the more we appreciate the intricacies of language - its rhythm, its structure, its flow.\r\n\r\nAt her recent lecture at the Sydney Writers\u2019 Festival, \u2018On Craft: Storytelling and the Storyteller\u2019,\u00a0Lian Hearn, author of The Storyteller and His Three Daughters, also spoke of the importance of reading. When discussing character, for example, Hearn simply stated, 'People arrive in my head.' She advocated that, for her, characters were not a creation. She did not sit down and plot out an entire backstory. She did not \u2018construct\u2019 them. They just came to her naturally; walking into her brain as fully formed individuals, ready to tell her their stories. Hearn then credited this innate understanding of character to reading; claiming, \u201cI think it comes, perhaps, from a huge amount of reading around the subject.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn other words, reading helps us form an inherent understanding of the art and craft of writing. This has also been expertly expressed by author and playwright, William Faulkner, who emphasised:\r\nRead, read, read. Read everything\u2014trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You\u2019ll absorb it."\r\nFor more on the advantages of reading, click here.\r\n5. Never Stop Writing!\r\nAs with anything else, writing comes with practice. A gymnast cannot win a gold medal by sitting in their armchair, eating ice cream and thinking about their routines. They need to practice. Run through their exercises, again and again. Stretch out their muscles. Flex their limbs. Keep themselves limber. The same is also true of writers. We need to stretch out our writing muscles. Keep ourselves in literary shape.\r\n\r\nBecause if we truly want to benefit from a literary community, we must remain literate ourselves.\r\n\r\nJust as William Styron once said:\r\nThe writer\u2019s duty is to keep on writing..."