If there is anything I've been known to find, it's a community. When I was in college, I would find my way to campus organizations. Whether I would stay a few month or the entire school year, each organization gave me a space of support, accountability and laughter. After graduation, it was a bit harder to find these spaces. As a writer, you sit in your room or maybe a coffee shop alone. You write, you edit, you think: alone. So much of it is alone, so when I find the groups of people I have to appreciate them.
During this time with the Black Lives Matter and CO-VID, I have realized that I have been depending on my tribes. Being a Black woman writer is challenging, but with the support of my communities, I am succeeding, and hopefully I helping them to do the same. We rise together! I didn't always have these spaces. In fact, it wasn't until three years ago that I started finding my adult writers tribes. Rec Room Writers, several writer friends, and a group of Black women writers are my own writers rooms. Each serving a different purpose in my journey and helping me build professionally and personally.
Writing with Friends
This group kept me reminded of the joy of writing and reading. Writing is an adventure and I should always treat it that way.
Many of my early writing groups started with friends. One group (Sophia, Elizabeth and Nick), pre-Co-Vid, would meet at the local coffee shop and write for a few hours every week. We now write online, but boy, do I miss our coffee shop kikis. In between our over-priced ice-lattes and pastries, we would chat about what we were working on, and life. This group kept me reminded of the joy of writing and reading. It was an adventure and I should always treat it that way. I also write with a friend, fellow writer and actress Nicklette Izuegbu (you should check out her youtube channel!). She reminds me to be about my business. A talented artist herself, Nicklette pushes me to not only write but to set goals for the future. What's the point of dreaming and not making those dream happen?I also have my friend Raymond Perez who gives the most detailed and honest feedback. Writing with him is like a master class in the execution of a great story! All of these people I knew as friends, but through writing, we became family. When you are looking for you writers tribe, start in your own friend groups.
Writing with Professionals
As I became more involved with various theater scenes, I met more people. People who had similar visions and goals. One of my goals was to connect with other Black women who had similar goals. I tried to start that group, but I didn't dedicate much time to it. Then, I connected with an artist from a screenwriters group that I'd go to periodically, and she connected me with four other Black women writers in the Houston area. We eventually began meeting periodically to check in with each other. From the first meeting, I loved them! It's more of a community-support-each-other-champion-our-work type of deal. Each of these women motivates me. I initially thought this would be more a a turn in pages group, but it turns out that this dynamic works. When you are searching for your space, don't rule out spaces that look different than what you think you want.
Writing with Theatre Organizations
Each one of us comes from a different walk of life, but the way that we support and lift each other up is something magical.
I found myself staring at an application for the Rec Writers Room. It was an awesome opportunity to be in community with 9 other writers and workshop a play in conjunction with Rec Room Theater. It was a dream. I applied and put my all into it. When I got accepted, I could not stop smiling. Finally Houston had a writer's room, I was going to be apart of the first one. I went to the meeting bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Everything for me in this career is still exciting. I hope it continues to be that way. I left with 9 other amazing writers who have laughed with me, and understand my frustration when it comes to birthing a new play. It's a process. I don't think that space would have been created if we had not come open, and be vulnerable and honest with each other. For this, I am grateful. Each one of us comes from a different walk of life, but the way that we support and lift each other up is something magical. I wouldn't have had this opportunity had I not applied. When you see these opportunities for writers groups APPLY!
Finding a writers tribe is worth it.
In each of these experiences, I grow as a writer and as a person. I get the chance to meet an connect with beautiful people of different backgrounds and walks of life. We start as strangers and emerge as as a writer's family. Writing can be a lonely feat, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you find your writers tribe with impromptu writing sessions with friends, formal meetings with organizations or community kiki's with arts professionals, your writers home should be a space that you feel challenged, safe and encouraged. Most importantly, it needs to be somewhere you grow and help others do the same. If you don't find your writers tribe today, you will find it tomorrow. Keep seeking, remain humble and open.
On that note, I leave you with the song "Tribe" by Jidenna.
Jelisa Jay Robinson
I'm a playwright, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll see my questions and musings on life and writing, theater and the world. My posts highlight my writing process, the inclusion of Black voices in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. I hope you enjoy!