Welcome to Write Wednesday!
Today I'm going to be writing about something I think is one of the most important things about writing, but almost everyone forgets about it.
I'm talking about community.
There are some famous authors who got together and spent time discussing their writing -- The Inklings, for one, and I know a few other authors who are part of a group -- either a critique group or writer's group where they can offer suggestions on a tricky spot, encourage each other to keep going, and talk about things like theme, characters, plotting, etc.
But most of us have the image in our head of a solitary writer who sits at the typewriter or computer all day sweating words out.
Sounds kind of miserable, doesn't it?
I used to be the kind of person who wrote alone. I didn't know there was any other way to write. And then someone introduced me to television shows that had more than one writer (I'm thinking particularly of Leverage and SNL) and suddenly the world opened up and I saw that it was possible to write with others.
My mind caught onto that idea and I've chased it for the last few years. The thrill of being creative with others excites me like nothing else. Telling stories with other people to even more people is the best thing in the world (to me).
I've participated in NaNoWriMo for the last few years (this will be year five for me) and our local group is active throughout the year. I don't get to spend as much time with them as I would like, but just knowing they're around and that I'll see them especially during the NaNo months makes me want to be more creative. I love swapping story ideas, character traits and just listening to people spill a story.
I've said before that being creative in a vacuum is nigh impossible, and I firmly believe that. If you only have yourself for inspiration, you just won't be as invested in your art. There's no one to tell you when it's good, or bad, or could use some work. There's no one to bounce story ideas off of, there's no commiseration when you reach a sad part in your story (and no cheering when you reach the most epic part). We need other people, specifically other people in our creative field. We feed off of each other. Creativity spawns creativity and the more around you, the more you are able to use.
So why do we all think of writing as a solitary exercise?
I think the 'classic literature' image in our brains has been ingrained because we don't really study writers. We study the sad parts of their lives (F. Scott Fitzgerald, for instance...Emily Dickinson, Flannery O'Connor), but only *their* lives. Not the lives of their friends and family and how those interactions created the stories and poems and plays we read today.
Do we really have to be solitary?
I really, really, really don't think so. You just have to find a venue that works for you. Are there a lot of writers in your area? Maybe try out a critique group. Start a book club. Have an outing at the local library and see if there are any good books on writing. Take part in NaNoWriMo (now offered 3x a year). Or, if you don't have a lot of writers in your area (professional or amateur), join an online group. There are forums, communities, blogs, and Pinterest boards for writers. Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, you name it. Writers are out there. Go find some you like and see how much it changes your writing -- the process, the brainstorming, the connecting parts, etc. There is so much to learn from observing and talking to other writers.
For example -- I was lucky enough to marry another writer. Although we tend to write dramatically different things (he tends to write dramatic sci-fi while I tend toward kooky fantasy), we're always brainstorming and talking about the craft, sharing books and videos that have helped us and gathering the other's experience.
I was stumped with a screenplay the other night. I knew it needed something more but I couldn't put my finger on it. We went out to dinner to talk about it (Cookout is becoming our writing hangout -- which I am totally cool with. Where else can you get a corn dog as a side?? But I digress...) and I shared the parts of the story I had down.
He thought about it and said, "It would be really cool if..." and basically gave me my ending. It was brilliant. Why hadn't I thought of it?? He knows story intrinsically. I'm still learning all the ins and outs of a good plot. We started brainstorming and now I have a really solid storyline (just trying to come up with the best raise-the-stakes scenario) and a much, much better story. Thanks to another writer who was willing to listen and share their experience.
I cannot begin to comprehend or explain the value of having other writers in your life, but if you are a writer (of any kind -- whatever you write, at whatever level), I must stress the importance of having at least one other someone that you trust that sparks your creativity.
You and your stories will be better off -- and since it's a two-way street, you're helping them out as well.
I'm extremely interested in your thoughts on this -- leave me a comment below.
See you on Friday for First Lines!