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As a kid, finding writing inspiration and confidence was easy. From picking out the right green pen to recounting your puppy’s every move, it was simple to delve into your own life to create work that was fascinating (if not to the rest of the world, at least to you and your mom).

As we get older, however, the writers’ sphere seems to close tightly. Workshops are meant for “serious” writers, books on the craft of writing focus on how to snag an agent, and people doubt that anyone but a full-time, paid writer needs a creative outlet.

None of this could be further from the truth. The vast majority of writers are people with day jobs who write and blog for fun. Rather than sequester themselves away in order to write the next Great American Novel—or blog!—these people need supportive communities in order to develop their craft. And they don’t have to look any further than the very computer they’ve been composing on.

The social element of writing

While writers and bloggers may have a mystic reputation as hermits, they need people. Bloggers want people to love our blogs. Who better to tell you what’s good—and what’s not—than your audience?

Likewise, most blogging inspiration comes from real-life experiences; we have to talk to people, not sit alone in a room. As part-time authors, we tend to think we don’t “deserve” help; our fear of failure or ridicule outweighs our need to tell our stories. But it’s not fair to our stories—or our readers—to avoid doing the hard work of improving our storytelling abilities.

That’s where online communities come in.

Online writing communities, like Writers’ Café, Writers’ Beat, or my company’s Foboko, enable bloggers to get help throughout the process of creating an ebook, a short story, a report, or any other blog post.

Writing isn’t the only thing that goes into creating a post: choosing the perfect title, brainstorming, researching, storyboarding, editing, developing artwork, and inserting backlinks all play a part. No one excels in all these areas, and soliciting feedback from people with more expertise can help you overcome any obstacle.

Putting your draft post in front of people is like having a test audience for a movie. You have a built-in opportunity to fix what isn’t working, which can make the difference between writing a mediocre post and an outstanding one. Online platforms take it one step further and eliminate a range of other worries you might be having.

Why online groups are best

The transfer of information online is seamless. Whereas traditional workshops involve taking notes, exchanging emailed documents, and sending revisions back and forth, sites like Foboko allow you to send images directly, access others’ work to edit, and provide recorded feedback.

Everything’s stored in one place; it functions like an online document that tracks every change made by every user. Collaborations are instantaneous, and you can always refer back when you have questions or doubts. (If you already do your writing online in a blog or personal website, you’ll especially feel the benefits of these systems.)

When you’re concerned about your professional reputation as a blogger in your industry, getting feedback from friendly readers is essential.

The size of online communities is limitless. People from all walks of life can see your work, and you can gain feedback from people who belong to different ethnic groups, geographical areas, industries, and religions. Think that won’t lend authenticity to your finished product?

Best of all, online groups allow you to work on your writing skills anonymously and affordably. There aren’t expensive fees to join. Instead, you can start building a list of potential readers; by building an online following, you have proof of demand, to encourage a traditional publisher to pick up your book idea or simply to encourage you to keep writing your blog.

The ease of collaboration online makes the process efficient and helps you go further. DeviantArt, for example, is a community that helps artists tweak and improve their work. Rather than receiving feedback from a single artist, the participants get perspectives from a wide range of artists. They take into account the styles and tendencies that fit them best to create a stronger work of art.

Online writing communities can do the same for your blog.

The value for first-timers

If you’re still skeptical about how an online community can help an inexperienced blogger, think about this:

  • You don’t have to travel to attend these events. You can actually get more work done at your desk while collaborating with others.
  • Your anonymous status will alleviate any anxiety about going public with your work.
  • Your requests for help can be archived and referenced later. This goes both ways—you can also see how other newbies worked through problems previously.
  • You can avoid pitfalls and overcome writer’s block when learning from others who’ve gone before you. You can learn about everything from layout to legal agreements to work habits.
  • Your confidence will never grow from hiding in your home office. But it will blossom when you’re mentored by a more seasoned blogger or writer. S/he can motivate you to blog regularly and get out of your own way.

Writers all wonder one thing: am I any good? The only way to know is to ask others. Opening yourself up to feedback can help you see where you do excel—and get help in the areas where you don’t. With the assistance of an online community, you’ll eventually produce work that someone other than your mom would like to read.