Tuesday, February 3, 2009

FINDING LIKE MINDS

"What no wife [spouse] of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window." Burton Rascoe



Writing can be a lonely occupation, and for many of us that’s not necessarily an unknown concern. Growing up we probably spent a lot of time alone reading and daydreaming, lost in a world of characters and their stories.


However, there comes a time when the loneliness may become disheartening. We need to see and interact with other people and experience life, or at least eavesdrop on other people’s lives. The well of ideas can run dry without contact with other people.


The well can also run dry when we don’t meet other people of like minds, in our case – other writers. Only another writer can truly understand our fascination with words and the creation of characters and their lives. Other writers don’t think we’re crazy when our characters speak to us, or when we talk back to them. Only other writers really know that writing is not easy work, or that editing is even tougher. As Janet talked about in her Friday blog, we sometimes have to be willing to ‘kill our darlings’ – those wonderful sentences and paragraphs we’ve created. We might even have to kill a character or two to make our story better.


So where can we find these people of like minds? Writers’ associations, writers’ groups (in person and online), writers’ conferences, blogs, chat rooms, MSN and Facebook, plus other places I haven’t thought to check or even know about, as I only have one foot in the 21st Century.


When writers get together, it’s like going to a smorgasbord. Everybody brings something different to the table – our experiences, our contacts, our successes, and our failures. As at any smorgasbord, recipes and techniques are exchanged. We may try someone else’s ‘recipe’ and find that it works. Or we might find that we don’t quite like it, but if we change an ingredient or two, it might work better for us. "Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." Anne Morrow Lindbergh


In general, writers are quite supportive of each other and are willing to share, as is demonstrated by the many writing communities that exist. I’m glad I belong to the SRW and SWG and have access to their experience and support during my writing journey.


Where do you meet other writers? What was the best advice you’ve been given by another writer? How did it change your writing?

15 comments:

Captain Hook said...

The only places I hook up with other writers are through blogs like this and critiquecircle.com.

Janet said...

Hey, Suse - I love my writers groups. SRW and the RWA Online group give me both support, friendship, and laughter. And this little group we've formed here (the Chicks) just adds to the joy I have of being a writer - and some days can be very unjoyful (disjoyful, injoyful, yeesh).

And like Captain Hook, I read (lurk) on a lot of blogs and feel a kinship there - even though I don't often comment. BTW, Cap't, I'm off to check out critiquecircle.com - thanks for the heads up.

On a completely different note - you've got to check this out, Suse. http://www.treadmill-desk.com/ (and on the right sidebar, go to freestanding desk, there's a great slideshow). A treadmill desk - yeah, I thought of you and your issues with Write? Walk? Write? Walk? This looks so interesting, I may have to get The Husband to start construction.

Janet

Suse said...

Hey Captain Hook,

Thanks for stopping by. Like Janet, I too lurk on a few blogs but don't always comment. I checked out critiquecircle.com before I responded to you. It looks like a really great resource. I think I'll be signing up, so thank you for that suggestion.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Suse,
I think the greatest thing I've received from the groups I've belonged to is simply the reassurance that I'm not the only one struggling with writing issues such as rejection and lack of confidence. The feedback and critiques I've received have been invaluable. Having writing friends makes writing much less lonesome.

Jana

Suse said...

Hi Janet,

I too enjoy the Prairie Chicks as well as SRW. Thanks for the link to http://www.treadmill-desk.com/. I checked it out. I'd actually seen a news cast about the treadmill desk quite a few months ago and had completely forgotten about it. It definitely is something to think about.

Thanks for your comments.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Suse, I like your post. I have writing friends I get together with through the SRW, but because of distances, I only see them 3 or 4 times a year - if I'm lucky.

Then there's the Chicks whom I love IM'ing with - especially those little impromptu IM sessions where we happen to be online at the same time and just start 'talking'. But the conference IM sessions are fun, too.

When I started writing seriously 2 yrs ago, I went to www.eharlequin.com and joined their online community. Writing-wise, it's the smartest move I've ever made. I've developed such friendships with some of those authors, writers and readers. The first time I de-lurked with a question, I rec'd 3 responses from well-known authors. The eharl boards challenge me, help set my goals, keep me accountable, eHug me, cheer me on...there's even a 'prayer room' there.

I also have many writer eFriends on faceBook. Some of these efriends are from eharl, but many aren't. At a glance, I see who's had a book released, who just rec'd their new book cover, or who is struggling to reach their daily word count. And I can respond and know they'll immediately receive my note of congrats or encouragement.

I attended my first national writing conference last year where I finally got to meet my eFriends face-to-face. We recognized each other from our on-line pics and laughed and cried together. I feel my writing has improved tremendously after attending the workshops at the conference.

I have my 2 CP's who have now joined me on FaceBook. They are like sisters and keep me accountable. I can honestly say I wouldn't have finaled in 2 contests last year without them.

And, I have efriends whom I've developed friendships with from attending the conf and reading each other's blogs. One in particular who knows who she is and who has become as natural a part of my life as breathing.

Suse - thanks for asking. 8)

Suse said...

Hey Jana,

I totally agree with you. It's nice to know we're not the only ones in this world that see it a different way. Writing friends are like family, but they support us in a different yet similar way - picking us up when we feel down about our abilities and helping us through the tough times when a rejection hits our mailbox. But the best part is when we have something to celebrate, we have someone to celebrate with.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hi Suse, I remember coming back from my first SRW meeting last year, and my husband laughing to himself because I seemed so happy. It was so lovely to be among writers and talk writing as readily as other people talk weather and celeb gossip, and he knew I was thriving on it.

The best advice I've received mostly came from my high school poetry teacher. I think all the poetry has really helped add depth to my writing, and she was also the first person to tout the ol show-don't-tell, because abstract angsty high school poetry about heartache and isolation just cannot survive on its own :P

She was also a demon about -ly words, to the point that I assassinate such adjectives the moment the appear on my page without thinking about it. She also introduced me to the effect of mixing an abstract thought with a tangible object (for poetry titles, in her case). The difference between a poem titled "Happiness" and one titled "Happiness and a Straw Hat".

Probably one of the best single pieces of advice I've received, however, came from an artist rather than a writer. She told me years ago, "Don't compare your work to other people's. Compare it to your own, so you can realize your progress. That's the only fair comparison."

Karen said...

Hey Suse, I am a member of the SRW and SWG although I could be making more use out of the SWG membership. I am very much enjoying blogging with my fellow Chicks. It has inspired me to get my butt in gear.

I also have been touring around the writing blogs and I even posted a comment on one which was a big deal for me (sad but true). I also am thinking about joining an RWA online group.

Karen

Suse said...

Wow, Anita, you definitely have a lot of contacts and support systems for your writing. From what you've said, not only do you get support from your various contacts, you sound like you are also a good support to them.

It must have been amazing when you met your efriends face to face. I bet it made your relationships with these writers even stronger.

Attending conferences is a good way to get a lot of helpful information and meet a lot of like minded people. I'm really looking forward to going to Surrey International Writers' Conference in October. Hopefully nothing happens to prevent me from going.

Suse said...

Hi Hayley,

I'm glad you found SRW. Not only does it sound like it's been a benefit to you, but I think just having someone new and younger has infused my thoughts and writing with renewed vigor as well. Thank you. You've certainly made me think about stepping outside of my writing box.

Your high school poetry teacher sounds like she was a nurturer and an inspiration to you. I like your example about the difference between a poem titled "Happiness" and one titled "Happiness and a Straw Hat". It is amazing the difference what these two titles present.

Your artist friend was very wise with her advice. There will always be someone whose skill is not as good as ours and those whose skill will be better than ours. The only real measure of our abilities should be from where we started to where we are now. This is a discussion I have with a lot of my students at work.

Suse said...

Hey Karen, congratulations on posting a comment on another blog. I think it's a greater challenge to comment on a blog of someone you don't know. You're ahead of me there. You go girl!

This year I'm going to try to go to more SWG events. I used to volunteer for them quite a few years ago so I got to know a lot of writers in Saskatchewan, and they got to know me.

I know what you mean about doing this blog. It has made me consistently spend time on writing, plus as I mentioned in my blog, I'm starting to enter the 21st C in terms of technology.

Sara said...

The best advice that I ever got from another writer was that writing something bad is better than writing nothing at all.

Everything can be fixed. The only thing that can't be fixed is a blank page.

I used to be paralyzed by the fear that my writing would be bad. There would be many days where I would avoid my office thinking, "I just can't go in there and write anything good today." But my friend (my mom actually who is a published novelist) said, "Then just go in there and write something bad. Fix it later." I thought, "I can do that. I can go in there and write something bad." And I did. But I fixed it later and the bottom line was that I was writing.

I just joined a local writing group as well and making that connection to other people who understand the crazy world of being a writer is nothing short of wonderful. Every night that I come home from a meeting I'm on such a high that I can't even sleep.

I'm such a loser ;)

Suse said...

Hi Sara,

Thanks for stopping by. I find it very inspiring when I go to a writer's meeting so I understand when you say that you're on such a high you can hardly sleep.

I usually have to drive 2 1/2 hours to and from the meeting, so I have lots of time to think about the meeting and the ideas that have been sparked by our getting together.

I like your mom's advice about just writing something, then fixing it later. I actually like to edit so I'm okay with writing something that I need to fix later.

mcd - nichol said...

thanks so much for posting this - it heartens me to know there are others out there like me. the only problem is ... i haven't found a support group yet :( a few years ago i decided this was what i needed and i joined a yahoo writing group. (after giving up asking family members to read my work and 'discuss' writing with me) it was not a success. i found one girl who i connected with and we built a friendship but things went south (i won't bore you with the details) and i withdrew. (no one else was supportive anyway - in fact i don't think anyone even read what i put up) i haven't shown my work to a single person since. the problem is - i still feel that longing to connect with other writers, people who want to talk about the process of writing as well as their actual stories. i'm very glad i found this blog and hayleys ...