Sunday, April 22, 2018

Writing: Solitude and Sociability

Thanks to Wyatt-Mackenzie publishing and Purcell Agency. Equally important, here’s a thank you note to every writer I’ve worked with, whether online, over a weekend, during a retreat, or in a university department or critique group. Maybe you and I barely remember each other, but still I thank you. Because however much I taught you, you taught me much more. Each of you contributed to realizing the dream of composing, then publishing Beyond the Fist Draft: Deep Novel Revision.

Around the time I published my first book—Take Your Characters to Dinner—my colleague, Marshall Cook joked that “It takes a village to publish a book.” He was kidding, as he often did. But at the time neither of us realized how many sources of wisdom and inspiration contribute to the completion of any book.

That may seem counter-intuitive, because writing is customarily associated with seclusion. And it’s certainly true that when you’re at the notebook or keyboard, there’s only you and the space you hope to fill. Numerous complaints about this syndrome exist. Here’s Ernest Hemingway:
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
Isaac Asimov agrees
Writing is a lonely job. Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his type writer or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.
Rachel Carson concludes that solitude is a phenomenon writers must embrace:
A writer’s occupation is one of the loneliest in the world, even if the loneliness is only an inner solitude and isolation, for that he must have at times if he is to be truly creative. And so I believe only the person who knows and is not afraid of loneliness should aspire to be a writer.
So it’s not whether writing is lonely, but whether you can mitigate that. Of course you can. 

Everyone agrees that writers must market. At a recent conference, Laurie Buchanan said to me, “Getting people to know about your book is a way of honoring it.” So whether you’re published or hope to be, make connections. Meet not only authors, but also agents, publishers, booksellers, bloggers, readers, and fans. 

Networking isn’t just for marketing; it’s for inspiration. Get yourself a writing partner. Join a critique group. Attend conferences, weekenders, and retreats. The support you’ll find there helps you write the best book you can.

My own antidote to loneliness is the blessed experience of working with writers in numerous venues. What could do a writer greater good than nourishing an addiction to books on writing, pondering the questions writers pose, and providing on the spot illustrations of technique. What better way to study the craft? What better way to become a better novelist? So thank you!

Tip: Keep the good company of writers so your own writing dreams can come true.

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