Why Writers Need A Toastmasters-Like Community
I loved writing.
I loved the time I spent on my own, pouring out my thoughts and ideas into words that I otherwise couldn’t.
Writing can be quite a lonely undertaking where you could basically hide behind your blog post, or articles or books.
Except, it doesn’t have to be.
Before I did my writing, I have already shared a lot of my inspiration and thoughts through other mediums such as speaking or just having a great meaningful conversation with friends in a group setting.
Admittedly, being an overseas student in a foreign country, at first, I found it difficult to find people who shared my interest, and were willing to join and be in a conversation with me for hours about topics that interest me like leadership, dating, relationship or spiritual.
Then one day, a friend of mine invited me to a Toastmaster meeting that she was involved in.
I knew what Toastmasters was although I wasn’t completely aware of what happened behind closed doors whenever they meet.
My friend’s interest and excitement whenever she went to attend the meeting piqued my interest and I decided to join her one day as a visitor.
I learned from that one meeting that the community was quite fun, and everybody was quite positive and welcoming. Although there are some seasoned speakers and some newcomers, like myself, everybody was always supportive and willing to provide positive feedback even to the nervous-wreck newcomer. I still remember the look in their face as their eye lit up as they listened to encouragement and positive feedback upon feedback being poured upon them.
I went back from that meeting determined to join and be a part of such a positive community.
Fast forward three months later, and I am on track to give my fourth speech and if possible, even join the upcoming competition. I didn’t stay long however as I needed to return to my home country.
I began my writing when I was in Indonesia. Although I missed the community and the positive vibe I am getting whenever I am in the midst of the group.
One day, as I was writing my blog post, I thought to myself, if there are communities for people to practice their public speaking, why can’t we have a similar community for writers?
As with public speaking, writing and getting your work published out on the internet can be quite a daunting prospect. Although hidden behind the animosity of the Internet, your work, which is basically an art, will be seen by people from all walks of life, most of which people you have never seen, and people you may never meet in real life. Although you may get the feedback, it may not be what you expected. People rarely give you feedback on your actual writing. They gave you feedback on what you write about or issue you discussed.
So I am proposing a Toastmasters-like community for writers.
Here are some guidelines for the community, which I have taken from Toastmasters meeting guidelines:
- Weekly or Fortnightly Meeting
Thanks to the availability of Facebook groups and its ease of access. We could “conduct” the meeting online via Facebook. We could put a specific deadline upon which each writer in the group, which has a maximum size of 10 – 20, needs to publish an article they have written. Once you have published the article on your blog, you need to share the link on the Facebook page to allow the group to follow the link and read your creation.
- Provide positive feedback
This is usually the most exciting part of the meeting, whereby you will get positive and encouraging feedback about your style of writing. Feedback could be about how well you started your article, how engaging your headline is, how spot on the illustration or image you used to accompany your post, or how well you ended the article. You could even say that just the entire feeling or topic in question really touched you. The possibilities are endless! You can write as much positive feedback as you could; there’s nothing stopping you! It’s sort of like giving a virtual “applause”.
- Provide constructive feedback
If there are parts of the writing you felt could be improved or need some adjustments, then it must be written in a constructive and encouraging way. For example, instead of saying, “Your headline isn’t engaging enough”, you can instead say, “Great choice of headline. However, I felt that you would be able to capture your readers a lot easier if you use ‘…’ headline because …”
- Minimum number of feedback
This will ensure that everybody gets enough feedback. Members of the group are required to always give feedback on whatever article is published. This is the reason why it’s important to keep the size of the group small enough so that members won’t be overwhelmed by having to review too many articles at once.
- Having a table topic master
Just like a speech, writing usually requires enough planning so that your content will be the best you can give. You may not be required to give an article on the spot just like you be required to give a toast at a party or an event. However, the thrill, the experience of having to come up with a short article upon given a specific topic could be useful to get you to get your creative juices flowing. It challenges you to think on your hands and really get writing. For example, given a topic of, for example, ‘doing laundry’, what can you write in the next 30 minutes?
I have decided to keep the guideline short, and as simple as possible at the moment. An actual Toastmasters meeting may have many more things that happen behind the scene and is a more structured aspect. Not everything is relevant for us. What we have above is what I believe may be relevant for us right now.
I believe the community that the writerspayitforward.com has built may be the first stepping stone to such an uplifting and encouraging future for any kind of writers, both for seasoned writers or those still starting out.
What do you think?
Suwandy Tjin is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach and also a Certified Behavior Analyst.