I had planned this to be quite a long rambling post on the Midwest Writer’s Workshop, which I went to last weekend. However, it appears that my son has decided to welcome my return back to the house by giving me a pretty nasty cold. So I’ll have to shorten my post quite a bit before the Nyquil takes hold of me and starts me hallucinating about piranhas. You can find most of my thoughts on the workshop anyway at my blog, The Cafe in the Woods. Take a jog over there after you read this. The Cafe is always open.
But what I wanted to talk about here is the necessity for writers to get together with other writers. You heard it all before: writing is a lonely business. The only co-workers a writer has exist purely in his/her head. Getting together with other writers keeps them sane. Blah, blah, blah.
For those of you who roll your eyes and think, I’m fine in my own little world, thank you very much. I don’t need anyone else to invade this space…my question for you is, why are you sabotaging yourself? Seriously, get thee out to meet some writers. It’s not only good for your soul, but it’s good as far as networking.
We don’t like to think about networking. Writing is a ‘creative’ business, one that comes from the gut, not the head (though we spend much of our writing time deep in our heads…hopefully). The word ‘networking’ has too much of a business connotation to it. One that’s left for the world of cubicles and water coolers and listening to your boss rambling on about his daughter’s upcoming recital. We don’t like the word ‘networking’ because it implies that our work can’t be based solely on its own merit. It means we have to talk to other people, other people who can look at our work and immediately judge it as not something they really care for. And for the ones who do look at it and clap and rain praises on it, we immediately become jealous. Surely they don’t mean that. There must be something wrong with it.
As writers, we need other writers. And not just those we meet online, but we need to see other writers face-to-face. We can only talk to our spouses/partners/S.O.s about writing for so long before their eyes start to glaze over. And try to talk to a non-writer about writing. Just try.
When we get together with other writers, we commiserate with each other. We talk about our writing habits. We discuss idiosyncrasies that only work for writers. When I was at the workshop the other day, we all participated in a writing contest. Never have I felt more at home with other people who understand the need to sit and stare into space before scribbling madly, wildly, oftentimes talking to themselves, and still be considered the normal thing to do.
And we learned from each other. One of the best things that happened at the workshop was when I really learned what it meant to ‘show vs. tell.’ One of the speakers had someone sit down and describe an incident that happened next to his hotel room. He was doing a good job with his eyes closed, describing the scene. “So when I banged on the wall, nothing happened, so I turned up the volume on the TV…”
The speaker said, “Stop. How did you turn up the volume?”
The man frowned and replied, “Uh, I pushed the volume control on the remote and the green bars appeared on the TV, zipping horizontally across the screen…”
And right there, I saw it. I swear, I saw those exact green bars. It was so poetic, described so perfectly, I wanted to weep, I got it. And all around the table, you can see people’s eyes widening, writers nodding their heads up and down, saying, “OooooOOOOOHHHHH! I get it! I get it!”
Some things you can learn by reading. But when you’re with a group of writers and you learn something like that, it gets burned into you. Nothing can’t erase that experience. Nothing.
So go out and meet some writers. Find a writer’s group. Go to a writer’s conference. Do something to get you out of the house and shaking hands with another writer. Your writing life will be all the more richer for it.
Ah, and a yellow striped piranha just floated by, which means that the Nyquil has kicked in and that I’m done writing for now.