I’m not going to lie, this pandemic is getting to me. Most of my family lives away from me and with social distancing practices in order, I’m left feeling pretty isolated. I’m close to several people who are at risk, which means limited family and friend interactions. And when I say limited, I mean, I’ve seen my family once since all of this craziness really hit. Same with friends. I’ve gone to a single, socially distanced, outside birthday bash. So, yeah, like that kind of isolation.
Not to mention, I’m a part of an incredible community of writers at Boise State. Being a creative writer here has become synonymous with belonging to an outstanding, supportive, and involved group of writers and artists. However, once COVID came around, all of that flew right out the window. All of our classes and writing workshops were interrupted, and not being able to see my peers in person, it really killed the vibe.
Feeling the loss of community
However, I understand how important it is to be safe, socially distant, and self-isolated. Of course, I’m going to keep doing it so I can keep those I care about safe. But that means a creeping feeling of being alone. A feeling like I’m not a part of anything bigger than myself has slowly been growing. As a result, I recently decided to research and see what others have been doing to fight off this issue.
Now, I realize that there’s plenty of things I can do outside of the house to stop it from feeling like Groundhog Day up in here. Being that Idaho is such a beautiful state, there’s tons of outdoor activities to do which may give someone the pick me up they’re looking for. I am certainly keen on taking some time away, unplugging, and becoming one with nature soon, which will be a welcome refresher for many aspects of my life. Although, that doesn’t necessarily help me fix the areas of my life which I’m most passionate about. So, I took to the keyboard.
When I searched “finding community during a pandemic”, one article popped up from Science Mag which piqued my interest. Arpit Sharma, the author of the article, discussed a feeling of deep loss within their community as they were asked to work from home for six weeks, away from their friends and colleagues, “My lab mates and I think of our workspace as a home away from home, where we enjoy interacting at lab meetings and over coffee. I felt a pit in my stomach as I realized all that was over for now. I was afraid of feeling isolated.” Yes! I feel this way, I thought to myself. Validation!
Some individuals within their group turned to Slack and started a group for researchers so they could continue to discuss their findings, sign up for giving talks and seminars, and essentially just chat with like-minded people. To Sharma’s surprise, the group exploded. They quickly gained 600 members, thus proving that so many others were in the same boat—afraid of the isolation. When they sat down for their first seminar call (or Zoom or whatever), they noticed that over 250 people were listening, watching, and taking part in their humble little community. Many of these people were from all over the world.
The journey to finding like-minded people
This got me thinking. If the scientific community can clearly see the value of in-person meetings, regular discussions, and honestly just hanging out with like-minded people, then the same should go for my community, right?
So, here’s how it happened for me. I often find myself writing horror. I’ve just always gravitated toward spooky content. As such, I follow a bunch of creators and artists who thrive in that setting. One day recently, I found myself navigating through some horror YouTube channels, which lead me to some Discord servers for fans of the horror community.
If you’re not familiar with Discord, it’s essentially a hub for endless numbers of “servers”, which are big chats on an infinite number of topics. They’re highly customizable, so you can make it a small, closed private group or (as was the case for the creators I follow) large communities of people who are all interested in the same thing.
I poked around in a couple servers for a few days, then realized that not only were there a bunch of writers in these groups, but they are also interested in the same subject matter as me. And here they were, posting poems, fiction, any little bit of written expression they could muster out to give to the world.
They were GOOD. Their work was GOOD. I felt inspired by their audacity to share something that is so personal as writing. I admired their willingness to put themselves out there for critique, and to a group of people who were scattered around the world, much like Sharma’s situation, which made one thing very clear to me—these people needed community just as much as I did.
I started digging. I talked to a few people who, in a familiar feeling to my own, expressed a bit of loss, not knowing who to reach out to during this time about their work. People were writing things that blew me away and some of them said they’d never had eyes on their work. They knew that they wanted to be around people with a similar interest, they’d felt something missing within this artistic side of them, but were never able to fill it. Especially not now, during a global pandemic.
Embracing an online collective
A lightbulb went off, and we started sharing each other’s work, giving feedback, and spreading writerly positivity. Then, in the midst of all of this creativity, someone suggested to me, “Hey! You should start your own Discord for writers!” and I thought, Wow, genius! An amazing idea.
Which brings us to today. I’ve started a group for writers, yes many of us like to write horror, but all writers are truly welcome. We’re a small bunch right now, since we just started, but already the feeling of community, inclusion, and that workshop togetherness that is so hard to find outside of the university is slowly somewhat coming back to me.
If you’re like me and you’re feeling like something is missing from your life since self-isolation began, don’t think for a second that you’re alone. Tons of people are out there are wondering how to make new friends during a pandemic or are just searching for people with similar interests who want to participate in silly conversation.