Weekend Edition – Writing Company and What to Write Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

The (Writing) Company You Keep

pin quiet peopleWriting is a solitary endeavor. Though your process may include research or interviews or similar tasks that require interaction with other human beings, when you finally come to it – the selecting and ordering of words on the page – you must tackle the task on your own. Despite the necessary prevalence of seclusion in our lives, writers – especially successful ones – seem to have an unexpected skill for creating and maintaining strong communities.

Again and again I have read interviews in which a freshly published author attributes a great part of his or her hard-earned success to the support of other writers. Sometimes the associations are loose ones – membership in a large writing organization like Boston’s Grub Street, for instance. Sometimes the connections are more intimate, such as a small, private group of half a dozen fiercely loyal and committed (to their craft and each other) writers.

I have been fortunate in stumbling into several wonderful groups of writers. Just as I was launching myself as a freelance marketing writer, I fell in with a fabulous group of B2B (business-to-business) writers who were a few (or many) steps ahead of me on the learning curve. We became the Savvy Sisters, a moniker we adopted in honor of our collaborative blog, Savvy B2B Marketing. Though that blog has now, after an almost five-year run, been more or less retired, I will always be grateful for the experience and – more importantly – the friendship of those women. We may not talk as often as we used to, but we are still in touch and I would do anything to support them.

It was one of the Savvy Sisters, the indomitable Wendy, who originally invited me to become part of this blog. Being welcomed into this group marked another turning point in my writing life. While the Savvy Sisters focused almost exclusively on writing for a business market, the team here at Live to Write – Write to Live offered me a place where I can talk about my true love – creative writing and the writing life. Reading their blogs, writing my own, comparing notes, and sometimes sharing a glass of wine via Google Hangouts, I have felt the positive influence of these women on my creative and professional writing life.

I am also part of a fabulous “secret” Facegoup group of fellow marketing writers, many of whom are also aspiring “someday novelists” like myself. Though we don’t publish together on a blog, we share ideas and questions on a daily basis. The diversity of the group and the breadth and depth of our combined knowledge is capable of solving almost any problem – writerly or otherwise.

The bottom line is this: you not only don’t have to do it alone, you shouldn’t. Writers are everywhere. With the Internet and social media, it’s easier than ever before to find people, connect, and stay in touch. You really don’t have any excuses. I realize that I’ve talked about this before – the importance of giving yourself the gift of a writer network – but it’s worth mentioning again. And again. There is strength and inspiration and sanity in the support of a group of like-minded individuals. As the now defunct MasterCard ad campaign always said, “Priceless.”

What kind of writing company do you keep? 

What I’m Writing:

"They bobbed on the waves and dreamed about what they would find at the end of the world." From Hopper & Wilson by Maria van Lieshout

“They bobbed on the waves and dreamed about what they would find at the end of the world.” From Hopper & Wilson by Maria van Lieshout

In addition to the secret Facebook group of fellow marketing writers, I’m also a member of an offshoot group that’s focused on those of us doing the marketing thing, but moonlighting on the side with various creative writing projects. Each week, one of our intrepid members invites group members to check in regarding how their work is going. Here was my response this week:

I wanted to plead the 5th, but then I tried to come up with SOMEthing positive. Here’s what I’ve got: Despite life and work stuff being CR-azy, I am 1) still managing to keep up with my weekend edition posts at Live to Write – Write to Live (no small feat since I’ve apparently completely abandoned my marketing blog) and 2) continuing to give brain space and stolen moments to ideas for stories AND – perhaps more immediately applicable – ideas for story-ish products and creative projects. I’m playing around with different assumptions about what it means to be a writer – more than short stories and novels. I’m slowly and quietly deconstructing my preconceived notions of what My Life as a Writer should/will look like and trying on some different possible realities. It’s all very hazy at the moment, but it’s keeping me afloat despite some challenging personal/business situations that have taken over my life recently. Thank goodness for the artist’s soul – always curious, always creating, always looking for beauty and meaning.

I share this with you in case anyone else is experiencing a similar sense of “limbo” in terms of establishing/evolving a writing life. I have always equated “being a writer” with “being a novelist.” Though being a (published) novelist still holds a great deal of appeal for me, I am suddenly realizing how many other types of writing exist in the world, AND how many types of writing I could explore even though there is no established market for them. Would I love to write a series of successful novels? Of course I would. It’s nice to realize, however, that that isn’t the one and only way to become A Writer.

What are your writing aspirations? Have they changed over time? 

book bellman blackWhat I’m Reading:

Just this morning, still tucked in under the covers, I finished Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. I enjoyed Setterfield’s first book, The Thirteenth Tale as an audio book (beautifully read, I might add, by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner), so when I saw a hardcover of her second novel sitting on the $2 shelf at the library book sale, I didn’t have to think twice.

Like The Thirteenth Tale, Bellman and Black is a haunting tale with an ever present hint of mystery and some darkness. If I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t as swept away by Bellman & Black as I was with The Thirteenth Tale. (I really hate to say that because I have heard so often how challenging a sophomore novel is for the new author.) It was, however, a satisfying read full of beautiful language and imagery.

One such passage that struck a particular chord for me, since I’m always feeling short on time, was this:

“Never let time be your master,” Bellman told Verney when he asked about it. “If you want to do something, take it on. Time will always make itself.”

But what he really felt about the matter was that he had discovered – or been given – the key to chronometry. He could open up the case of time when he chose, apply weight to the pendulum and slot its movement. He could take the hours apart, find the extra minutes that were going to waste in them, make them his own.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

This has gone so wildly viral that you’ve probably already seen it, but I couldn’t resist sharing it One. More. Time. I was never a big fan of Mr. Yankovic, but after this fabulous parody, you can count me a new convert. Enjoy!

Here’s hoping you find your perfect community of  fellow writers and word nerds, grammarians and historians, memoirists and fantasists – the people who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you on the writing journey. Meantime, glad to have you as part of the Live to Write – Write to Live community. We love sharing our adventures with you! 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

38 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Writing Company and What to Write Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

  1. Gosh, I’m thinking your collective secret group should run for President!! All those wonderful minds, working daily to solve problems….this country could use you guys!! Seriously, a wonderful post about finding creative souls to help nurture your writing process. I’ll put, “The Thirteenth Tale”, on my list of books to read!!

    • Thanks so much. I really am so lucky to have found my way into the company of such great writers and women. I hope you like The Thirteenth Tale.

  2. Great post! I’ve had a hard time finding any good “writing groups” in my area, still looking, but I love the idea of joining one. It’s a great way to gather new ideas and tips, and brings to mind Gretchen Rubin who I believe called her writing group a “community of aspirants.” I love that! More than writing groups, however, I love writing workshops. As a “diarist” (yes – this is a category!), I rarely ever write fiction. I love workshops that incorporate writing tasks and assignments. I find that I grow consumed by fiction writing. It’s like I’ve stepped outside myself. Quite interesting… Anyway, long post. I look forward to reading more and also checking out your suggested bloggers. Have a great weekend. Cheers!

    • A diarist? I have to learn more about that. See? All these different types of writing that I’m not familiar with! 🙂

      I love “community of aspirants.” That’s a great way to frame it up.

      Thanks so much for coming by and for joining the conversation. I hope you enjoy the blog links.

  3. Hi Jamie. I’m sorry I haven’t been more regular in reading and commenting on your wonderful blog. I’ve been working on my WIP (almost half way through).

    Your thoughts on support groups really struck home. I’ve been a member of Scribophile since the beginning of the year and have formed some close alliances with a number of the members there. Often, if I’m working late, I will look in. Sometimes, my fellow insomniacs will pose a question.

    One night we discussed how deep moats were and whether they needed to be filled with water.

    The other night I got help on two questions. My first was how painful a slash wound would be down someone’s ribs. I also wanted to know what people thought might be a good tactic for a fourteenth century version of 007 to slow down an advancing army. I got some great ideas, in only a few minutes.

    And I solved, for now, until revision time, a hole in my outline.

    Happy writing,

    Silent

    • Nice to “see” you! 🙂

      That sounds like a wonderful resource! It’s all about being connected with a group of people who share your interests and are generous enough to want to help. Those seem to be the two keys to creating a really helpful (not to mention fun!) group. So glad you have that kind of support … even late into the night!

  4. The writing company I keep is varied and beloved. I love everyone who writes, and love the diversity of poets, budding novelists and seasoned professors. I definitely don’t limit it to just writers, either. I have editor friends, avid readers and cheerleaders who like to discuss various topics and questions.

    As for my aspirations as a writer: they have changed a bit, but the basic idea is the same. I take it in stride, I think.

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post and your thoughts about sharing ideas and creating a network.

    • “… varied and beloved.” Yes.
      I love the fact that I also have many non-writer creatives as friends and associates. Though I love kibitzing with my fellow scribes, I also love the different perspectives and new inspirations I get from talking with photographers, painters, musicians, and other artsy types.

      Thanks so much for coming by. Great advice to “take it in stride.”
      🙂

  5. How do you do it? Every week is something to interest and challenge me 🙂 I agree completely about writers needing community. I started attending a writers group a bit over a year ago (and promptly became secretary). It has been an invaluable source of education, experience, fun and connection. So worth it. As I have written more and more I have attracted writing friends, and their support and understanding is invaluable. As for reevaluating what a writing life means – well, I have spent the last 6-9 months doing just that. Like you, I thought being a writer meant writing novels. But…fiction isn’t really my thing. And over the last month, I have returned to blogging, which I love, as well as having an awesome non-fiction writing project idea growing away inside of me. Over that time of reassessment I was trying to make writing into a job, which doesn’t work for me. Now I know!

    • Awww … thanks, Sara. 🙂

      So glad you’ve found such a great writers’ group. Sometimes, just being around other people who are doing the thing you want to do is enough to push you just that much closer to your personal goals. Writing can seem like such a vague and/or unreachable goal, but when you’re surrounded by people who have either done what you want to do or are side-by-side with you pursuing that brass ring, it all suddenly seems much more realistic.

      Congrats on finding your writing groove with the blog and the non-fiction project. It must feel like coming home.

      • Yes – even when I was really struggling to know how writing would fit into my life, I still kept going to the groups, and would come away inspired each time. As for coming home – spot on xo

  6. Oh – and the articles: I love the slideshow one – 12 things to say ‘no’ to. I don’t consider myself someone who has difficulty in saying no to things or people, but wow, some of them addressed my greatest battles – #10, negative thought attacks, negative self talk – all of them i wage battles with. Also loved the social media one. Very true. There best practice for social media and anything else, is authenticity.

    • I loved both those posts, too.
      I’m terrible at saying “no,” so James’ SlideShare was a great reminder. And, I always love Dan’s posts. He has a wonderful newsletter that includes the weekly post and also a bit more that doesn’t get published on the blog. He’s the real deal and a wonderful resource.

  7. Writers group. Maybe that’s what I need to encourage me to write more. Do you have to get an invite into one of these, and are they open to bloggers from anywhere?

    The blogosphere can seem quite like what space must sound like. Qui-i-i-et and alo-o-ne. And to a young blogger trying to find my writer’s voice, that can be discouraging. I’I just found you through this ‘mad’ Writer Crimes video, and will definitely check in again.

    • Hi! Happy to have you here & thanks for the reblog.

      Writers groups are all over – you can search for online groups or local “real world” groups. And, if you don’t find one to your liking, you can start your own. Libraries are often a good source of information on real world groups if that appeals to you.

      Good luck!

  8. I think your post on the value of communication and support among writers has come as a reminder to me. There is a tendency of the serious writer to become reclusive, particularly when fully absorbed in a time-consuming and demanding long-term project like writing a book. Even family business is put on hold. That happens to me all the time, so right now I am going to email a writer friend and suggest we get back to our weekly confabs at the delli down the street,

    • “confab” – love that word! 🙂

      You’re so right, David. Writing has a way – especially when we get to the intense part of a project – to draw us out of the world and into our heads. It’s much too easy to block out the rest of the world.

      So glad that you’re going to get in touch with your friend and enjoy a little writerly chit-chat. Enjoy it!

  9. Another great post. I’m currently struggling to find my writing “tribe” in my area, but have hit a snag or two. While I agree it’s easy to find people who say they want to write and make it a priority, many times I’ve found that what they really want is to meet people and talk about how they would love to write, but never do. But reading your post gives me hope that I’ll find that group of people who not only sympathize with my writer-ly journey, but can also empathize.

    • It usually takes a few tries to find the right group, but when you do, you’ll know.
      Good luck in your quest.

  10. Hi Jamie. Limbo-that’s a good word for what I’m experiencing. It is hard finding the right combination of people, and deciphering what it is you need and want from them is key to building a successful collaboration.

    • Hello, Lynne! 🙂
      You’re so right. It’s critical for everyone in a group to understand what is expected of them. AND – you have to find that (almost) perfect chemistry so you don’t spend all your time dealing with divas and drama.

      Sorry to hear you’re in limbo, but at least you know you’re in good company!

    • Hello, Heather! Thanks for coming by. Happy to share that post – it was really helpful – both inspiring and educational. 🙂

      Hope you enjoy Setterfield’s books.
      Cheers!

  11. Reblogged this on My Sweet Reality and commented:
    I’m not just a currently single twenty-something; I have a career, too. I am a corporate communicator by day and a college English professor by night.

    This video gets a big laugh and a standing ovation from me!

  12. Pingback: Links: Writing, Batman, Feminism and Science Fiction | Natacha Guyot

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