When INKubator set up its charter, the four founding admins appointed three community members to the Board to help get the community running and to enable the Board to make decisions for the community. They were given a three month term–half the time of an elected term of office. This period is drawing to a close and it’s time to look back at what we’ve achieved so far.
A Thriving Community
Our greatest achievement is the fact that we have a content and thriving community of active writers. Our general chat channel on our Discord server is rarely quiet and includes a blend of writer insanity, letting off steam and joking around, and writing talk. You can see some of that stuff in our weekly INKsightful, INKcouraging, and RidINKulous posts.
In addition we have loads of fresh content including articles on writing, useful links and a place to feature our members’ writing websites on our inkubatorcommunity.com site. On top of that we have a growing Twitter presence with many of our members engaging in the wider Twitter writing community and growing our own organization in that space also. Our Facebook page is also sharing useful content–both ours and that of others.
We’ve also created a guild on habitica.com to help our members reach their writing and publishing goals. Since we are an online writing group, our community exists in the spaces in and between these different applications. There have never been so many tools or so many ways for writers to get together, and our group–with members from all over the world–is a great example of what can be achieved in a very short space of time.
Back on Discord, we’re concluding our second skill-building exercise in our practice channel and we’ve had great support with getting feedback on each other’s exercises. We have plans and inspiration for many more exercises and have just announced the third one.
Our peer review channel has good traffic. Our members regularly exceed the two critiques we ask them to provide for each one they ask for themselves and the quality of critique offered has been excellent. The live review channels are also regularly used and abound with writer discussions and good advice.
Along with channels dedicated to improving our skills, our Discord server also has a couple of collaborative projects. The Renga is a collaborative poem open for all members to partake in, which then gets edited by our very own Damian Jay Clay (@damianjayclay). And for some fun, we also have our
FreeThINK channel where anyone can add to the current story or poem going on. FreeThINK is a way to let loose and write without worrying about the rules, to enjoy some literary banter with each other, and experiment with writing styles.
The community feels like an extended family. We have a core group that are around on Discord much of the time and keep things moving. Then we have others who come in occasionally. Conflicts are pretty rare. Our moderators almost never need to step in even on a casual basis to redirect discussion or smooth ruffled feathers. The community takes care of each other and makes an effort to be respectful of different opinions.
Progress Towards Writing Goals
The primary purpose of INK is to help its members achieve their personal goals as writers and to create a network to help each of us improve their skills. This is definitely the case.
We’ve got a few community initiatives to help support those who struggle to get words down. With different types and styles available, it’s easy to adapt something that fits your own personal goals.
The exercises additionally serve as prompts for all sorts of writing. If you need help brainstorming or world building or to talk your way past a sticky spot in your work, someone is there. We’ve got room for all sorts of writery stuff.
If you need to cry over a form rejection or celebrate a personal rejection or acceptance (and our members are getting both), we’ve got people around who understand what it feels like.
Our channels related to mainstream publishing of our work are only available to our INKling level members–those who participate most actively in our peer review, live review, and exercise channels–but they are never without activity. We share submission calls and contests with each other. Members recommend markets we think might fit someone else’s story. And we cheer every submission and commiserate with every rejection.
Our peer review channels–three types open already at the Associate Member levels–reflect respect for different styles and levels of comfort with writing craft. Suggestions for improvement are founded on more than personal opinion. Commentators make an effort to understand differences in personal style, difference in genre conventions, and cultural and regional differences in word choice, etc. Everyone wanting feedback gives it also, which helps keep the reviews flowing.
A View Beyond Ourselves
If we want our work to reach professional mainstream publishing levels, we need to continually review what’s being published now. With a range of members each reading and discussing and bringing information back, it helps all of us. We’ve also instituted newer initiatives to encourage more discussion of outside publications, both works and things about writing and publication.
We also want to bring in more writers with different experiences and perspectives to help broaden our horizons. This seems to be working. We’ve had already established writers join us and find our community beneficial to them, so they’re spreading word of our opportunities to others in their own circles. Members are also active in different sorts of programs and communities, building networks beyond our virtual walls. We are looking forward to welcoming more members as we establish ourselves further in the greater international world of writing.
Building Bonds and Networks
Many members cite the sense of community connection as one of the biggest personal benefits. These bonds and the friendly whippings, kicks in the butt, hugs, and other encouragement help us each stay or get back on track. A lot of online writer workshops and critique groups focus only on the editing side of things. But encouraging and supporting the “off topic” discussions allows us to be more effective at tailoring suggestions and support.
In a way we’re really a big quirky extended family. We have inside jokes and crazy cousins and lots of love even when we don’t agree on something. Whether we’re dealing with the ups and downs of writer life or the struggles of making writing fit into stressful real lives, we’re there for each other and it makes a difference.
The following are personal statements from each member of the Board talking about what this term has meant to them:
Anike Kirsten (@anikekirsten)
INKubator has been a home away from home, inside my home. It has been a refuge from the mundane daily life rituals and a source of stimulating conversation–of which is lacking during the day as a stay-at-home parent, alone until evening. Encouragement, support, and the occasional pressure to keep going. When I’m feeling drained, something always pops up and reinvigorates. Sometimes a bout of silly brainstorming, other times a good lengthy discussion dissecting a writing rule, and still other times when it’s just the right article or story that gets me craving to write again. The community on the INKubator has helped me turn writing from a hobby into a serious pursuit.
Steven Max (@aksounder)
INKubator has soaked its way into the core of who I am as a writer.
The people who established this server are the same people who encouraged me to reach for my goals as a writer now rather than set them on a shelf to wait for me in retirement. I have had the pleasure of developing as an editor and receiving amazing help with my own writing from others. Collaborative effort is a joy. I’ve realized the immense value of good editing support during my time with this community and am constantly grateful for the encouragement, learning, and friendship that I’ve found in this group.
INKubator is a place of old friends and new friends, hatching ideas and watching them grow; a place for a writer to call home.
Constance Watson (@therosepatch)
Having an internet happy place, free from the outside stress of the world, is a big thing for me, and I’ve found that at the INKubator. Here I can explore my creativity with other like-minded people and benefit from other views and experiences without any judgement or criticism. I’m honored that they asked me to be a part of the interim board, and I hope that my minimal influence has helped to make this community grow into what it is becoming. I can’t wait to see what more our community will accomplish. Together we can do anything.
Damian Jay Clay (@damianjayclay)
Simply put, INK is the writing community I’ve always been looking for. We have a core of fabulous, friendly members who are there to help one another along in so many ways. Our numbers may be small but we are very active and there’s almost always someone around to chat to about our work or our lives. INK is my extended family on the net.
Jasmine Arch (@jasminearch)
I love my family and my friends. But let’s face it. When you talk to them about writing, they’ll either fawn over every word you spout, or their eyes will glaze over and they’ll start nodding along until you start talking about something they understand and care about. You need another set of family. The kind that has a writing brain, like you.
INK is that for me. A place where I can vent my frustrations and celebrate my modest victories. Those annoying moments when your cast of characters start a mutiny, when all the words seem to have abandoned you, or that time you got a personal rejection instead of a form one? Who but another writer would understand all of these things?
That’s why I consider myself blessed to be a part of this–an INKling. They’re my tribe. My comfortingly weird home in a world that is far too normal. This place that we all built? I’m so proud of it I could burst.
Andrew J. Savage (@thinknzombie)
How am I supposed to put down what INK means to me? How could I possibly sum up how proud I am of what our group has achieved in just a few short months? That feeling when you sink into a warm bath, the moment of bliss when you finally become horizontal on your mattress after a long day, that first gulp of beer on a Summer evening–all of that and more. That’s the buzz I get when I look in to see what our members are up to.
Geographically, I’m far away from everyone, but on INK I can be surrounded by a group of amazingly intelligent, talented writers, pretty much any time of the day or night. At this point I don’t even want to imagine a world without this group. They are my friends and my family on the net.
If you are looking for a writer support network, then look no further. You will be hard pressed to find a more welcoming, fun group that is also focussed on professionalism and publishing.
R. Jean Bell (@bex-dk)
My INKubator family has really been essential to my sanity lately. I’ve had a rough year with a lot of personal stuff going on and it impacted my writing. Everyone here has understood my struggles and given me encouragement to find ways to work through it with my writing, looking over my poems and stories, whipping me back to work when I needed to focus more on myself, and helping me talk through whatever I got stuck on, which was a lot with how my brain has been log jamming with grief. I have so many pieces submitted to mainstream markets and so many ideas in the works despite it all. I wouldn’t be making these choices or feeling like I have a solid chance of getting publication soon if it weren’t for this community.