Can a writer (or should a writer) ever really go it alone?

If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.  ~ David Brin

Last night I met with the Northwords Writers’ Camp writers and presented on how the Internet fits into/enhances my writing life.  I mentioned how it’s a great resource for:

  • Support, Inspiration, Community
  • Education, Practice
  • Writing markets, Publishers
  • Marketing, Communicating and building relationships with readers

I also delivered the reminder that we all apparently need to hear on on occasion. Just like any super hero has their kryptonite, the Internet has a side that can cripple even the most stalwart writer. It’s called TIME SUCKAGE. Only writing is writing.

And I touched on a few other things to beware of online (in blogs or public forums):

  • Nothing is private
  • Nothing goes away
  • Published online (even “just” on your blog) is published.

But feeling that the pros of getting involved in the Internet writing community (how it can help one grow in and enjoy his/her writing life) far outweigh any small cons, I encouraged each attendee to start their own blog and we spent the rest of our time talking about Do’s and Don’ts of great blogs and did some writing exercise to per chance get us started.

As ever I was blown away by people’s creativity and how unique and highly individual each person’s results were, even with exercises as specific and guided as the ones we did together were. It reminded me yet again of why I write, why I readto share, to learn, to grow.  To think, to laugh and sometimes, though definitely not last night, to cry.

It also reminded me of how good it is to get together with other writers (in person, live!) and talk craft. The Internet is awesome and I’m incredibly grateful for it, but it doesn’t replace the value and importance (and fun :)) of getting together in real-time with flesh and blood people who share your interests. (We talked about that too.)

If you’ve been writing in solitary confinement (as is, of course, the necessity and norm)or perhaps are feeling that you’re not getting enough alone time with your wordsre-read the quote I opened this post with. It’s good to have people and other activities in our lives. They refill the well.

Yes, only writing is writing, but sometimes to keep on track with our writing (in a way that brings joy, refreshes our inspiration, soothes our fears, etc) connection with other kindred soulsonline or face-to-faceis just what the Dr ordered.

What do you think? Can any writer truly go it alone?

Northwords Writing Camps 2011

Dear All,

If you happen to be in lovely Terrace, BC early this August (or if you could be) and you’re a writer (established or newbie), the Northwords Writing Camps are running again and you should be there!  There’s an adult camp running August 2-5 from 6 – 8:30 for four evenings and a youth one (ages 11 – 16) running the same dates from 10:00 – 1:00.  The camps are FREE (thanks to the wonderful Terrace Public Library and generous sponsors noted on the posters below) and feature three different authors presenting–including me. 🙂 

 

You can register for the youth camp at the library and for the adult camp at Misty River Books. I hope to see you there!

Do-it-yourself online writing retreat

The writing life can be a tad isolating, so a few years back, I started my own writing forum, Procrastination, as a way of keeping my treasured friends-who-also write close as we grew further and further apart geographically. We’re a small board; maybe five of us post regularly, with only three or so more than that who pop in every couple of months. We’ve even taken to (most years) meeting up for the community-building/inspiration-boosting/writing-celebration of them all–the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

Then this year at SiWC, late Saturday night, missing one of our Procrastinators who couldn’t make the conference, feeling sad and a bit blown away that our wonderful weekend was almost over again already, we started discussing (or maybe bellyaching, just a bit ;-)) how Surrey gives us energy/motivation for our whole writing year, and how the conference never arrived a moment too soon . . . In fact, wouldn’t it be great if we could afford do two a year–SiWC, plus some other retreat or something six months or so later?

Enter fantastic brain wave! It occurred to us that we already had a perfect meet-up place, and instead of just using it as a message/conversation board, as fun and valuable as that is, why not use it for something a little more planned out. An online writing retreat! Our set up was simple.

I created a private thread (only people who had signed up ahead of time could see the thread when they entered Procrastination.) On the set day, at a set time, we each posted one exercise. Then we spent that full day, plus one more day writing according to our own schedules. On the third day, again at a set time, we each posted our results to each exercise (with no disclaimers about perceived quality, etc). Everyone who signed up committed to reading and responding to each participant’s posts. The result was fantastic–much better than we’d even anticipated in terms of fun, inspiration, and concentrated, results-based motivation.

We all came away a bit in awe that we could write so much in such a short time period–and that a lot of it was “keeper” material, stuff we wanted to do more with, possibly lengthen, possibly tighten and polish and submit as short stories.

Seeing as it was such a success, and how (for now) our ability to take in bigger conferences/retreats is limited to annually, we decided to make it a seasonal event–our spring writing retreat is just around the corner; I’m already excited and brainstorming what exercise I’ll offer.

If you’re part of a small online writing community and feeling a bit low energy in the ol’ writing department, I highly recommend organizing some form of your own online writing retreat. And if you don’t have that kind of online community, but long for a bit of a writing extravaganza/refuelling? Well, come visit me here again soon. A while back I did a writing retreat for one and I’ll post a bit about that in a few days.

Happy writing!
🙂 Ev

Axe sharpening . . .

I was introduced to Ecclesiastes 10:10 the other day—Using a dull axe requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.

The verse was used in the context of faith, how it can be easy to go through the motions, to seem fine when really you’re discouraged and struggling. How instead of taking strength, joy and peace from your faith, sometimes clinging to it can seem like drudgery. The speaker went on to talk about how to sharpen your blade and the importance of doing so.

I appreciated the message and felt the verse applied to a lot aspects of life—relationships, jobs, writing. Almost everything in life, no matter how passionate we are about it, has seasons where continuing on just feels like work, where we wonder if what we seek is actually attainable, where we question whether there is anything special or valuable in what we’re trying to hold on to…

If you’re like me (and since you’re probably a writer reading this blog before getting to down to work, I suspect you are), you’re no stranger to hard work. You’re used to sitting down whether you’re inspired or not and putting words on the page. You’ve steeled yourself against rejection. You will keep wielding your axe because it’s what you need to do—and let’s face it, in the end, a dull axe does the same job as a sharp one. And for that pragmatic attitude and ethic, we should be congratulated. We rock!

Thankfully, not every writing session fit the description above—far from it. We know flow. We’ve embraced the muse. Had those wonderful times when the stories and thoughts in our heads pour out faster than we can type, those moments when we finally glance at the clock we can’t believe that we’ve been writing for hours and we still feel so energized. All is right in the world. All is right in our heads. We are writers; we pour our inky-hearts out on paper—we rock!

I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, persevere when the work is hard and it’s all sweat and fear. But yes, double-yes!—seek those things that remind you that writing is your passion, that make your time spent at the computer less like hacking and more running a warm blade through butter that has fresh bread waiting for it.

Here are a few of the things that sharpen my blade and make me feel that I’ll burst with contentment because I get to write: Spending time with my opera-singer sister and laughing about the angst of the artist’s life. Keeping close contact with writing friends, through e-mail and an online forum. Reading good books. Writing things that are just for me, like poetry. Doing writing exercises and taking “no pressure” classes and workshops—and, maybe ironically, giving workshops. Playing outside, rain, snow, or shine. Making sure I have do-absolutely-nothing slouch time. And (again, perhaps ironically) writing through those uninspired dull-hatchet times.

Have a wonderful writing week, fellow axe-wielders! And if you have time to share, I’d love to know: What sharpens your blade?

Looking Back to Move Forward

Euf, I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately—sorry. I wasn’t off in a corner sulking about the poor economy or worrying my ring around my finger, wondering if I was just deluding myself with the whole you-can-be-writer-if-you-don’t-give-up-thing. Or at least I wasn’t doing those things much.

I was prepping for the Surrey International Writers Conference, then I was attending it, then I stayed on in Vancouver visiting family and friends for a bit. Then, upon arriving home to a very sick husband, the fallout of a “surprise” electrical upgrade emergency for my home that I learned about just prior to flying out, plus playing life-catch-up, I just didn’t get here.

Anyway, while I was away, I discovered a deep well of affirmation/inspiration. Of all the great things Surrey has given to me over the years, this year’s gave me perhaps the most important: the knowledge that whatever the future carries, I write and will keep writing, not because of any dreams about what my writing might become financially or end up being to someone else, but because of what my writing is right now, what it has always been: My guts. My search for connection. My way of making sense of the world (or attempting to). Therapy (Thankfully, I’m a big fan of play therapy—it’s not all angst-ridden and dreary). My way of celebrating, appreciating and critiquing . . .

Past conferences have always motivated me in the business-side of writing—get an agent, get published, make $$$ so I can write more . . . This year, listening to all the solid advice from agents and editors and great inspirational wisdom from publishing writers, I decided that approaching creative writing as a business is bullshit (in a positive, warm, energizing, not negative way). Writing is about the writing. The other stuff is just other stuff.

I still want an agent. I still want to share my stories—at which point, they’re not solely mine anymore, I realize. I still want a few regular dollars, so I can afford the hours I write without feeling like a burden on those I love. But in forty years, if I’m still writing with only the few odd acceptances here and there, I will still be writing.

This sense of “whatever” about publishing has freed me up in some way. It is time to start putting my stories out there in earnest, because it doesn’t matter how they’re received. I would prefer, kindly. But rejection won’t stop me. Anymore. And maybe that’s why I’ve been hesitant in the past. While writing, I’d remember what it’s all about, but I’d forget when faced with the idea of having my work “judged.” Now I don’t care. I like what I write. I write what I like.

Editors and agents have to think about marketing and bottom lines, blah. If someone ever likes my stories enough to take them on, I will think about those things too—and will work hard for them. But those elements will always be after-writing-concerns.

There is a lot of value in living and working with an eye on what you want to accomplish next (not to the exclusion of enjoying today, of course, but that’s another post), but if a writer writes because they love/need the writing itself, looking back—and being awed by how far you’ve come and how much your writing has done for you—will be a huge part of moving forward.