Writing is a lonely journey – not that this is a bad thing. Most writers love the isolation, the space writing gives you to be yourself and to get lost in your own – and your character’s – worlds. Without that space our creativity would be stifled, our minds always busy with whatever is going on around us. As writers we need to be able to closet ourselves away, hang that do not disturb sign on the door and ignore everything and everyone else – at least for a while.
But we also need like-minded people to talk to about our writing, to brainstorm ideas with and to get the valuable feedback we need to improve our craft. If you’re lucky you might have someone in your family who can provide all this but otherwise you need to make connections with other writers either face-to-face in a group, one on one with a fellow writer or even online. Other writers know the joys and woes of getting the words on the page. They know the thrill of finding exactly the right simile, the fear of exposing themselves through their writing and the frustration of rejection. They understand better than anyone else what it is like to sit at the computer, spilling your heart onto the screen only to read it and find your finger hovering over the delete button. Sharing all this with others who can relate helps keep you on track with your writing, helps keep you motivated and inspired.
Last week I emailed a short story I’ve been working on to my writing group, The Writers’ Dozen. The story had started off at over 4000 words and I had whittled it down to just over 1,500, the target I was trying to reach to enter a competition (that editing process is a whole story in itself which I will tell another time). Not only did my “support” group reassure me that the cuts I had made didn’t spoil the original idea they helped me to hone the words so that the finished product was a much tighter piece in which every word added something to the story. As I listened to their suggestions, took some on board and discounted a few, what I was trying to do in the writing became a lot clearer to me. Talking it through allowed me to crystallise my vision and to look at the story more from the reader’s perspective. A writing group like this is invaluable and I don’t think I would have kept at it (this whole writing caper, I mean) if it hadn’t been for their support.
If you don’t have access to a group or don’t have the time to meet outside the house finding a writing buddy you can connect with either in your home, a local coffee shop, by phone or online is another great way to keep you motivated. A writing buddy should be (ideally) another writer, one who “gets” where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to achieve with your writing. You don’t want a buddy (or a group) who will tell you everything you write is wonderful just as it is. The whole point of this process is to improve your writing, so you want someone who is willing to tell you what they think works – and what doesn’t work. You need someone who is going to be empathetic but honest, a buddy who wants to see you succeed as much as you want to see them succeed. And since this is a two-way process, you need to be able to take on board their suggestions (ie. nicely worded criticisms)without falling to pieces and you need to be confident enough in your writing to make the changes you think work and ignore the ones that don’t.
So, where do you find these gems? Writing courses and workshops are great places to meet other writers. Swap contact details, keep in touch, arrange to meet up for coffee and take it from there. If there are enough people ( 4 is a good minimum number) you could start up a group and arrange to meet on a regular basis. If there are only a couple of you, do the same and set up regular “writing dates” online and in person. Writers’ Centres run regular courses (try The NSW Writers’ Centre – see Useful Websites on this blog for the link) as do Community Colleges, WEA and a number of private writing colleges (just google).
It might take some time and some trial and error but having writing buddies makes a huge difference to your life as a writer. So, get out there and connect.
What have your experiences been with writing groups and buddies?