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Literary Citizenship

What is it, and why should we care?

By KJ AartilaPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 3 min read
Literary Citizenship
Photo by DDP on Unsplash

Before I even knew what it was, I wrote a bit about Literary Citizenship in these two previous articles - The Benefits of Reciprocity for Writers and Giving and Receiving Feedback. I recently ran across the actual term for it while reading a book by Jane Friedman called “The Business of Being a Writer,” where she gave credit to editor Rob Spillman for coining the term. Literary Citizenship is described as “activities that support reading, writing and publishing in the literary community.”

The thinking is that if one wants to build a life that’s sustained by the literary community, one should be a good citizen of that community.” — Jane Friedman, “The Business of Being a Writer”

The idea is to participate with the writing community through efforts of sharing, promoting and helping others. It’s an outwardly focused mindset. Literary Citizenship fits perfectly into the idea I have tried to explain previously in my articles stated above. Most of my own experience comes from being a part of the Vocal Facebook writing communities, some of which are very dynamic in member participation. Those are the communities I value participating in. I have also tried becoming a member of other online writing groups, only to be repeatedly met with silence and an atmosphere of very little engagement or reciprocity. I haven’t spent much time in those groups, as I don’t see much benefit to it for myself, or other writers.

Literary Citizenship is basically using our communication skills and reciprocity to nurture a community of support around us.

Why do we want that? For three compelling reasons in our journey to become successful writers. (My focus here is online, but this applies to in-person communities, as well.)

1. Career Building

By engaging positively with our peers from a supportive perspective beyond a focus on self, we create a reciprocal fanbase supportive of us and our work. This creates a great atmosphere of camaraderie and confidence - a great climate to be in, for all involved. Through creating trust and camaraderie, we create fans and mutually beneficial, positive relationships.

2. Promotes an abundance mind-set (another term I credit to Jane Friedman)

There is no competition with peers to feel one must hoard the spotlight in order to gain attention, and therefore, win. This mindset creates a less-stressful environment, opening the doors to more creativity. When we support our peers, they will support us - it’s a win-win.

3. Creates a Reliable Network

We have a built-in network for answering questions or offering career advice. We can fall-back on a like-minded community when we need support or encouragement, as well as offer the same awareness when we have the opportunity. Enjoying being part of a network can also lead to other opportunities down the road for developing a writing career.


Developing skills toward becoming a good literary citozen is an important step toward building writing as a viable career in developing a voice, a brand and name recognition, that should not be over-looked. Time and effort involved are well worth the rewards of developing a loyal fanbase. They can believe in us, because we believe in them.

Most of us will not be successful in a vacuum - ignoring the existence of anyone else. We need to develop positive relationships with the people around us. We garner support by giving support. This is what helps us grow and improve in our writing endeavors. It’s up to each of us, and utilizing literary citizenship is one of the many factors paving the way to success.

Thank you for reading! Have you found a community in which you feel valued and comfortable communicating? I encourage you to try developing support for yourself by using the idea of Literary Citizenship.


About the Creator

KJ Aartila

Wife of a very tolerant husband and Mother of one teenage daughter in far northern Wisconsin with too many pets.

You can also find my Author page here

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Comments (6)

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  • Mariann Carroll2 months ago

    Useful and informative, especially for new vocal writers .thanks 😍

  • Absolutely excellent informative and helpful article

  • I had no idea that there's actually a term for this. Wow. That's impressive. And I absolutely agree with eveyrthing that you've said!

  • Gina C.2 months ago

    I really enjoyed this article, Keila! This is Top Story worthy for sure, wouldn’t be surprised if it pops up on front page :) I agree - there is so much truth in all your words. Being an active part of the writing community really helps with confidence; you really do get out what you put in :)

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    This is a great article. thank you for sharing.

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  • Heather Hubler2 months ago

    I love that there's a term for this!! I agree with everything in your article. You really do a wonderful job with writing these and with fostering a supportive online community :)

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