The (Writing) Company You Keep
Writing 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
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?
What 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!
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.