If You Build It, Will They Come?

I think we’re all a little like Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.

“How could authors be like a baseball player with a besmirched name?” you ask.

Remember the plot of that great movie with Kevin Costner and Ray Liota, Amy Madigan and the incomparable James Earl Jones? That cornfield and those car lights stretching for miles will stay in my head forever and so will that voice Costner kept hearing. “If you build it, they will come.”

But Shoeless Joe waited until everything was perfect before he stepped out of the corn and brought his team with him. Luckily for him, Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s character, was driven to sabotage his own corn crop and complete a perfect ball diamond. Jackson, however, didn’t come when the corn was plowed under. Or when the grass started to grow. Or at the building of the screens, the pitcher’s mound, the bases or the bleachers at the side. He came when everything was ready.

Are you like that? With your writing? Do you wait until everything is perfect before you write a word?

Last night I sat at a writers’ group meeting in a large city here in Ontario. I’ve belonged for a few years but my attendance has been spotty. When I first started to look at myself as a serious author, I traveled far and farther to learn what I needed to know. I flew across the country, drove hundreds of miles, started critique groups, crossed borders a few times and just went wherever I knew I could learn. And those travels led me to write books of which I am proud. I wanted to make them as perfect as they could be.

But back to last night. This group has not progressed; in fact, it has lost a lot of the people who were shakers and movers when my attendance was more regular a couple of years ago. As we did self introductions I was most interested to hear how many of those present (about 30) had never been there before. We went around the table telling a little about ourselves. Two things stood out. I was the only person who used her full name; the others just used their first name. And people seemed so apologetic and shy about what they were doing, even those who have been writing for years.

Members and visitors have in common a desire to write and, one assumes, to get published and known as writers. They should, therefore, introduce themselves with their full names. There is no place for bashfulness here. We must step up to the plate before the corn has reached full height or the cheering section is in place. A writer’s name is the shining light on the cover of her books or the byline of his articles. It’s marketing, people.

I belong to a second writing group whose meetings I travel miles to attend in snow, sleet and threat of flood. Well, not really. If the weather is horrid, I don’t drive the almost two hours to attend the Saturday morning breakfasts but usually it’s fine. This group has about 300 members, a vibrant executive, stunning guest speakers, a monthly breakfast meeting, workshops, courses in writing topics, its own magazine…the list goes on and on. I don’t attend everything and, because of the distance, some of the events are not possible for me to attend. When I go there, though, I see large groups of happy people delighted to be in a banquet room filled with others whose writing dreams are as magical as their own. Those people get what I’m doing and many of them help me, whether they know it or not.

And they are not apologetic!

The Writers’ Community of Durham Region has built a fine playing field. People are coming. In droves and flocks and buses. They even have an associate membership available so that those who are too far away can use the resources on their website. The current board members of this amazing group and those who came before have followed their own dreams and created something for the rest of us to use and enjoy. And, like Shoeless Joe, I’m stepping out of the cornfield and playing in a great game.

As for the first group, I’ve decided to try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. So many people have helped me and I’m thankful. It’s time to give back. Do you belong to a writing group? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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8 thoughts on “If You Build It, Will They Come?

  1. Thanks for the reminder, Elaine, of what it takes to be a writer. Sometimes it feels like we are standing alone in that cornfield waiting for something that may never come. But the overriding theme of that story is faith, and you need lots of it to start with an empty page and believe that someday, when it’s ready, the readers will come. A solid writing community is critical to the success of writers, but so few of us have the luxury of interacting with an effective one. I applaud those people who joined the group you attended last night and showed up ready to learn and meet others of like mind. So many writers never get up the courage to get there. In Durham Region we are fortunate to have WCDR in our midst. I can’t tell you how much it has done for my writing career. And we are absolutely delighted to count you among our number. We’ve learned a lot from you too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a thoughtful comment, Sally. And thanks for your kind words. You are the one who led me to WCDR, a pivotal step on my road to publication. You’re right. It takes a lot for writers to take that step out to mix and mingle with others of like mind and we were all there at one point. To move forward on the journey takes even more courage and planning but the rewards are there. We just have to swing for the home run.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe that’s another post, Lira. I have lots of ideas but they’re worthless unless the group wants to change, aren’t they? In my writing journey I’ve not been afraid to go where I could find what I needed and then move on if that venue didn’t pan out or if I needed to go further. Maybe that’s the benefit of being retired. The first thing I would do if it was a group whose members I knew well is ask if they want more from the group. If they’re happy with it the way it is they won’t change. Don’t be afraid to move on. What I liked about the group I went back to is that a lot are young people who are excited about stepping into the writing world. I think that bodes well for the group. Good luck with yours!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think for WCDR, having new board members every year and recruiting them from newer members as well as established ones has given new perspective and allowed the flourishing of innovative ideas. We are constantly offering new workshops, leading new events and building on existing initiatives to make them better. We do membership surveys and a strategy session every two to three years to find out what members need. We promote our member’s work and encourage them to share their writing at our events and run workshops at our monthly RoundTable. Another key component is outreach. Our board members go to outside events, conferences, workshops and sessions, and we make contact with world class writers, editors and industry professionals who can teach our members. That has injected new life into the group beyond what we could do just networking amongst ourselves. It takes a lot of work and faith and time and effort to build it, but we have, and the members keep coming!

        Liked by 2 people

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