If you spend more than a click or two in writer circles, you will read…and re-read…and re-read…variations of “writing is a solitary profession.” So, to be a “real writer;” must one become a hermit and come blinking out into the sun only for an annual supply run? Or—to be “noticed” and be “in the know”—should a writer be actively involved in every writer group within a 200-mile radius and from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu online? I’d like to propose a happy middle ground where you’ll find both solitary and community writing.
Here’s my “mini” case for community.
As we chat about this today, let’s flip our order and check out writing in community first. One of the first things a writer needs is inspiration. Now, hold on to your tablet; this will be an earth-shattering statement:
Inspiration doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
What?!?! This is brand new information! (See what I did there, “Friends” fans??)
Seriously, though; you cannot expect to fill your creative juices tank all by yourself. You need some help with that. Thankfully, various types of “stations” exist for you to fill up frequently. You have stories flying all around you from books, shows, movies, people you encounter and your own life experiences. You can observe life and the people living it. Friends and family may inspire you in subtle ways you don’t always realize. And, last but not least, you’re in the company of a host of writers all over the world—each with unique styles, stories and perspectives—and most easily accessible with the click of a mouse at any minute of the day.
In order to gain life experiences, you can’t climb to the top of a mountain and lock yourself in a cabin with your cat and paper and pen. (Not that I’ve ever spent hours day-dreaming about doing such a thing!)
If you’re going to write about tangible experiences, you must experience all the emotions, opportunities, successes, failures and relationships you can. Embrace; overcome, if you must; internalize; and remember—with all of your senses—the events that made you who you are today.
This, dear writer, is how you write the characters readers will never stop loving…or hating.
By writing from life, you create living characters who have lessons to teach in their words, actions and interactions.
Now, I’m going to switch over here to the other side of our writer’s coin; but, before I do, I want you to know I realize I’ve barely scratched the surface of all I could say about community and what outside forces can and should influence a writer. Also, I have much more to share about community as we typically think of it and all the people who are—or should be—part of your writing community. For that, though, you’ll have to tune in next week when I share a community structure with you. I also want to share with you how you can be part of a writer’s community—whether you’re a writer, reader or the lover/friend/family of a writer. And, to round it out, I’d like to share some of my writing community with you. This will be a multi-part topic; so stick with me and let’s explore this all together!
At some point, it comes down to you and your words.
Community creates a writer; however, when it comes to the actual creation, you will discover a time when it must be you and your writing and no one else. This is when we zoom in and assume writing is a solitary profession, period…The End.
When you’re in the midst of deep writing—world building, character molding, plot plodding, emotion examining—you have to drown out all the voices of the community you worked so hard to build and shut yourself a way in some respects.
Much like mothers in some cultures shut themselves up with a newborn for 20-40 days to bond and strengthen themselves, a writer needs to be alone with his manuscript to cultivate a strong relationship with it and strengthen its growth.
This ties in to another topic I hope to examine in a future post—voices. Writers are bombarded constantly by various voices—how to…, you must…, to get published…, to be successful…, 10 steps to a bestseller…, never do this…, always do that…. And, as you probably know, all those voices frequently overlap and usually contradict.
When you let all those voices in with no filters and no gates, you will become overwhelmed, frustrated and disillusioned.
So, my takeaway for you today? Be a social solitary writer. Find your community, build it, learn from it, love it; but know when to step away, when your time has come to steal away with your work. That’s when writing is a solitary profession that’s been built on a solid foundation of community.
How do you view your writing—solitary or community? Do you lean more one way than the other? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially as I’m continuing this discussion!
Thank you to the amazing Casie Jones Photography for today’s feature photo!