Writing is a solitary business. One sits at one’s desk and words magically appear on-screen (or on paper.) Well, that’s the ideal, I suppose. For today’s topic, let’s assume it’s true.
Writing this way can be very solitary. Except for the characters skipping, hobbling or sneaking across the pages, the writer is alone. Alone with all the doubts and questions and “Crap!” judgments that are so much a part of the process. And so, we crave company. We search the Internet for writing sessions, the library for how-to books, the bookstores for must-have instructive books and we are delighted when we find others with our particular fondness for writing.
I found Barbara Kyle’s website and signed up for her online course, which was very instructive. I see she now has workshops and is easy to contact, a necessary thing when you are looking for answers.
In the local newspaper a couple of years ago, an ad caught my attention. There was a course being offered right here in Woodstock about writing. I signed up immediately and thus began my relationship with Brian Henry’s informative workshops. To be able to talk to people who were doing what I was doing just thrilled me, and still does. But as my novel-writing progressed I needed more. Brian offered an extreme editing course and I took it. Eight weeks of meeting for an afternoon each week and dissecting our work.
The people were great but the course rocked my world, not because there was anything wrong with it. Rather I had to learn which comments to heed and which to discard. That was hard until I got to hear others’ writing, to find confidence in my own ear, and to sift through the hundreds of suggestions from my peers and my instructor. After the course was over I didn’t write for about three months. I was just too confused. Finally my characters called me back to rewrite in earnest. And I did. This was the hardest course I took but, ultimately, the one which has most improved my writing by forcing me to become objective about my own work.
Along the way I started a writing group in my city. There may have been others operating but I couldn’t find them so put out a call and started one. We were four women about my age (not young!) who loved to get together once a month and hear each other’s words. One writes beautiful poetry with an undulating and lyrical rhythm which stretches her point. Another is an Alice Munro lover and writes short stories. And the third was an artist, totally new to writing, who has since given up for the moment. The group was great, the personalities all with such interesting personal stories that we chatted long after the meetings were over.
But it petered out. One has serious health problems, one quit and the third has her own business which has grown so much that she has no time for writing. Well one thing I know about writing is that you have to keep at it, every day if at all possible.
Not content to just drop my writing sessions with others, I joined the London Writers’ Society and found an excellent newsletter and people who were actually publishing. This is where I am, now. I need to learn from those writers who are walking the walk, not just talking the talk. And I need to share. It’s who I am and how my writing evolves.