Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Company of Writers

Last night, the chatroom had a full house. Lots of folks showing up to exchange ideas and talk about their latest work. It got me thinking about how important the company of other writers is.

I arrived pretty late at my understanding of the need for connecting with fellow writers. It isn't easy. I was always very protective of my writing, and terrified someone would shoot it down, or worse yet, wouldn't "get it." Writing is meant to be a conversation, meant for an audience, as Jamie pointed out. But it is so intensely personal. Of course, personal can become lonely, and at some point someone has to see what you've written. In recent years, I've learned just how vital the company of other writers is - electronically, in person, on the phone - anywhere you can get it. It has given me the courage to be public about my work, even send it to publishers, far more than I ever have before.

The company of writers can call forth my green-eyed monster. It can also inspire me, give me new perspective, revitalize my own work, cast out the demons of doubt and isolation.

What does the company of writers mean for you - good and bad?


  1. This probably says a lot about me: I keep mistaking the subject line of this thread as "The Company of Wolves." Freud would have a field day with that.

    Until recently such company was bad. Seriously bad. It felt like navigating a minefield.

    Fortunately this is different. Friendly and more mutual, I think. As you said, writing is such a personal thing, so there's always going to be a little tension in writers' groups. But sometimes stepping out of one's comfort zone is good.

  2. Someone I talked with tonight said you want a group that is supportive but won't let your piece go to hell. That pretty much sums it up. I want to feel safe, but not too safe - to trust the people enough to know they will tell me where the problems are. Easier said than done?

    Which is worse - getting criticism or giving it?

  3. Easier said than done, very probably! That's when advice like "don't look down" comes to mind. (Oh, forty feet remain....)

    Getting criticism or giving it. Nah, just coffee, thanks.

    Anyway, getting criticism is toughest when the need for approval gets in the way, whether it's approval for one's work or oneself. Very important distinction.

    Giving criticism gets especially hard when you wanted to like someone's contribution. You don't want to ruin it for the writer or, even worse, misunderstand what the story needs. "What this Brazil thing needs is a happy ending!"

    The only way I can get through it, as critic or recipient, is to make the story more important than myself. It shouldn't matter whether it's my baby or someone else's. Either way, it deserves an advocate.

  4. Ah, need for approval... A monkey on my back.


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