How many times have I heard someone gushing over their own prose? It’s vomit inducing and leaves me self conscious for most of my day.
I’m not talking about jealousy of another writer’s work, no, I am talking about the real envy that comes when someone seems to enjoy writing. I always took a small measure of comfort in the belief that all writers are masochists.
Setting aside personal time, staring at the blank screen then counting the number of blinks the cursor makes before you type in the next vowel felt necessary.
Then, all of a sudden, I’m confronted with johnny types-a-lot whose sparkling grin,stretched ear to ear, becomes the ultimate slap to all my masochistic endeavors. This wasn’t a tormented soul that gets up every morning, resurrected, to hoist themselves on that black and white cross.
Confronting that early in life sort of gave me the writing jitters. I clammed up at the keyboard, wondering if my pursuits were flawed, or if I was working against something that was innate in others.
Could I be doing this all for the wrong reason? Was I addicted to an aesthetic, a lifestyle of the sagacious old writer in twill concentrated on each pen stroke?
I hate twill, however, I love to be “tormented.” I sought that tortured artist motif and used it as a crutch to avoid my responsibility as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I am unfettered from the struggle of writing, but at least I identified the thing that keeps me from producing. It is so easy to give in to the thrill of production and a day or nights work with actual atrocity. I could be alone in this, but if by some chance you feel this way, I’d advise taking a stronger look at the way you approach coming to the keyboard.
Can mitigating martyrdom help eak out a few more paragraphs? I have been approaching the whole thing in measures. I always want to get a certain number of words for each sitting. If I go over or under, then that is not a loss of my time. The real loss is when I sit on my hands and bemoan my own tortured time plugging away at my latest edition of “Zach, tortured auteur.” Now, I use a simple mantra, “find my time, find my place, find my mindset then write.
Welcome to January’s resolution time! Two weeks is enough time to reflect on 2018 and decide what you might want in 2019 right? That’s right, I’m talking writers’ goals! It’s that fun and dreaded time to commit to completing story X, writing Y amount of words a day, seeking and learning from critical feedback, improving weakness C in your writing, ect. What’s your writing resolution(s)?
It’s been a year since the North Alabama Writers’ Group posted in this blog, and I opened our first post with New Year’s Resolutions. It seems fitting that 365 days later, I offer a reminder that a writers’s group can help you reach those goals.
Why Join a Writers’ Group?
People join writing groups, classes, and programs for many reasons. I think the two primary reasons to join/meet is:
-Improve writing. We are looking for someone to suggest skills and styles we don‘t have. We may need proofreading. We are looking for others to help us past writer’s block. Or maybe we just need another person to tell us we’ve “jumped the shark” or lost reader’s interest.
-Motivate us to keep writing. A constant struggle whether a hobby or full-time is to keep writing and maintain commitment to the one project. We may love that work as we’ve loved nothing else in our lives, but it is difficult to keep working on it and striving for completion. Whether you struggle in the first draft or the second, there is a point where you think “I can‘t do this, no one will see what I’ve done as I do and that‘s the best gift I could give my creation”. A group either through feedback or encouragement helps us get through this struggle of sorrow and ambivalence. They help push us.
A third, perhaps lesser reason to join a writers’ group is to become part of a community. Writing is a lonely journey. It’s nice to get together and speak to others who have the same struggles and maybe the same thought process.
Are There Different Writers’ Groups?
Yes. Some exist to work together on group projects. Other’s give out weekly assignments, like a class, and they ask everyone to produce something from a related theme. Still others are more open and each writer pursues their own project, sharing as they are ready. In some writing groups, no one shares any work at all, they gather to commiserate over the process and perhaps hold brainstorm sessions for each other.
Can one writers’ group accommodate all these different goals?
Maybe? In the North Alabama Writers’ Group we struggle to balance differing expectations of our growing group. It’s hard because all writers go through periods of low creativity. Writers also have varying temperaments and accommodating everyone at one meeting can be a challenge.
To help with some conflicting desires, sometimes it’s good if a larger group breaks out into sub groups. We do this at meetings when those who would like to take part in our blitz round robin break off from other writers who would prefer to discuss their own ongoing works. We always allow time for those who want to read their recent works aloud to share, but we force no one to read out loud.
We have multiple online spaces. Google document sharing happens between writers looking for more structured commentary. This blog is a space for general writing conversations and topics we may not always explore in the face-to-face meetings. Our Facebook group allows for link sharing in a less formal format.
That’s great, but this post should tell me how a Writers’ Group helps me reach my goals!
A good writers group wants to support each of their writers goals and ambitions whether it’s a hobby or it’s something the person is seeking to pursue professionally. While balancing different levels of expectation and production is difficult, it’s important you take the time to get to know the people in a group and see if what they are offering will help you in your process.
Do you leave filled with creative energy and the desire to write? Does the group’s feedback present new avenues for you in your story or future re-writes? Are you able to co-author works with your group or perform a writing exercise at your meeting that helps get your process started? Does the group link you out to other writers, editors and publishers and can you grow through networking and differing perspectives?
I can‘t promise that all writers’ groups will help a writer. And I won’t promise that the North Alabama Writers’ Group is a good fit for everyone, but I would encourage all writers to find a group/person that supports and drives them forward. You may have to create the content in solitude, but you don’t have to travel through the whole journey alone.
No idea who first said it, but someone said: “If you write, you’re a writer.” It wasn’t a conscious decision filled with tedium and angst. I picked up a pencil, learned my alphabet, and have been part of the writer’s club since first grade. My first stories all fall into the haunted house genre. Ghosts, friends dying or disappearing, and an ever increasing series of rooms. I told the story “Winchester” with the same stakes, except sometimes my characters didn’t survive. So better and told by a child, I guess I was too ahead of my time to rake in all that Hollywood money. At least I have creative satisfaction?
I’m mentioning this anecdote because a common writers’ blog question is “when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?” Is telling stories a choice for some people? Like is anyone in a room saying “I’m about to have an amazing idea for a story, but I need to get a jump on quantum mechanics so hard pass on inspiration.” Or are these people like “my dream was to be a plumber, but damn the money and security of writing is so tempting, I quit my trade school despite all the people encouraging me to follow my passion.”
The other thing I love about “when did you take the plunge to become a writer?” is the implication that a person stopped being anything else as soon as they choose writing. Yes Bob, I was a student, but Mrs. Williams asked me to write a story and I enjoyed it so much that I decided screw it, I’m a writer now! Or Wendy was a stay at home mom but then she started moonlighting as a blog content creator. Now her kids are in the orphanage, aspiring to write a compelling enough version of their life that maybe their mother will acknowledge them creatively even if she had to abandon them for the work.
The framing implies everyone who writes should have the one goal: to make writing a full-time profession and excludes the reality of most writers. It’s a passion we pursue around our lives, not a career we move towards single minded. And props to the rare, lucky, privileged few who make writing a full-time gig. I don’t mean to erase this group, I just think they’re a minority.
A more apt question in my perspective: “Was there ever a time you weren’t a writer or didn’t want to write?” Or even better “How big a part of your identity is writing and are there times where you feel it over grows its boundaries?”
None of the writers I know have a “and that’s when I realized I was a writer story” but most of them have “and that’s when I realized I’d gone too far,” or “now when I have time, there’s no writing,” anecdotes.
What about you? Is “when did you become a writer?” a meaningful question? Are there times you wish you weren’t a writer? Is writing enough validation of your career/hobby or do you only thing published writers have a claim to the title?
Writing is theft. Confession time: there are no characters, situations, or concepts in my writing I haven’t lifted from a real world experience. While anything is fair game for a story, I’m most focused on having “real characters” that a reader can relate to and believe are real while I make a world full of the fantastic these normal people have to deal with. Because I like character studies, my most stolen tidbits comes from the surrounding people.
When I talk to you with that over eager, boisterous barrage of questions, I am interested in you, but I’m also pilfering all your experiences and responses to mash up later when I sit down to write. Do not leave me alone in a room because I rifle through every drawer. There’s no shame in my cat killing curiosity and there’s no end to it. Tell me to back off anytime now. I know my intensity is off-putting, and I try to keep a lid on it. If we ever meet, I hope you’d never suspect how hungry I am to hear your life story. How much I want to dig into an abstract hobby of yours. I want facts I can check to see if you’re the honest sort, but either truth or lies, I’ll incorporate that study to some Frankenstein-esque mash up of you and four other people I met this week. It’s alive, and the only part I can claim rights to is how I fit the Tetris blocks together.
What in your day-to-day life do you steal the most inspiration from? Are your gems personal experiences and past events? Or do you explore expansive new places, plumbing each place for its local traditions, retooling them to your desires? Do current or past politics spur you into creative world building? Are you seeking to recapture old myths and fairytales in an unique way? Or maybe you dream of technological break through in the present and think of what they’d mean in the future (or what they would mean if delivered to the past)? There’s so much information offered, rife for a writer to pluck up and entwine into a new story. How is a creative to choose? Tell me what you hunt for, what parts of your story are the “most real” and how do you obscure the origins of those tidbits?
It’s a simple question, but one I’ve found a lot of writers have never asked themselves.
I write because I have stories and I want to tell them. Compulsion pulls me through where a reasonable person may surrender. There are days where I think “even if no one ever sees this, I need to complete it.” That’s an internal part of writing, when an idea gets too big to hold in my head and needs to come out to the page. There are stories of mine I’ll never seek to publish. I “had” to write them, but that doesn’t mean they are good or meant for public consumption. Two, even though they are fiction, just mean personal things I don’t want to share. Others are artistic dabbles that I either think aren’t good or may be acceptable but not noteworthy enough to go through the work trying to publish.
I write because I enjoy reading but it’s rare I find an engaging story. Arrogance at it’s finest, to think I can be more unique and captivating that those already published. What I want is so niche it’s probably not worth creating. If I’m looking for a gritty urban fantasy with relatable characters, attainable goals, and both good and negative parts of magic and myth running the world, there must be other people looking for that. Urban fantasy readers can’t all be there for the romance and laughs. Some of them must be like me looking for the substance. American Gods exists and was a huge hit. There are so many other directions a work like that could go that I want to see.
I write as a way for reaching out to others. As someone shy, nervous, and concerned about other’s feelings and perspectives, there is no better way to broach difficult topics than through fiction. It’s a lot harder to feel attacked by an idea expressed in an imaginary world than an idea that will affect people now. Stories create space for people to say “that’s an interesting idea, could it work here?” or “I wonder if issue X is relevant now and what that looks like?”
I write because it distracts me when my anxiety is high. To a lesser extent: I write when I’m depressed because I need something beautiful or I write when the world spins out of control because writing is all in my hands. Most writers I know have an element of this. They are pensive, depressed, anxious, socially awkward and writing mitigates that for them.
I write because it’s one of the few skills I have that makes me proud and leaves me feeling accomplished. I write because I have something to say and I’m always exploring new ways to express my points.
And now you, the reader, know me better. Tell me something about yourself. Are you a writer? What do you write? If it’s fiction in nature, why write it? If you’re a reader, what do you read and why read it?