In one of her books Madeleine L’Engle remembers a psychologist who told her all writers, at heart, are immature exhibitionists who want the whole world to see what they’re thinking and to acknowledge and applaud it.
That’s a pretty narrow view of something that is so pivotal to the human race. Try to picture a world where us exhibitionists don’t exist and practice our craft. No books, no letters, no love notes, no political treatises, no poetry …
I think it would have been more accurate to say writers march to the beat of their own drum. That their minds are constantly weaving stories out of both the extraordinary and mundane parts of their existence. And this involves living with a foot in two worlds: concrete reality and boundless possibility.
And sometimes that dichotomy is a little bit lonely.
I think of the conversations I have when I tell people I’m a writer:
“Oh does that pay well?” Nope
“That sounds interesting.” Not most of the time.
“So you get to hang around in your pajamas all day?” Well, this is Colorado. We’re all just one small step away from PJs.
There are also those fun conversations you have with loved ones who don’t understand creative ebbs and flows. Their advice usually comes from a genuine desire to help, but just leaves you feeling more adrift in a world that doesn’t put a lot of value on the arts.
That’s why I am so grateful for my community of writing friends with NCW and for events like the conference. In a profession that is often marked by isolation, it’s refreshing to find people who laugh at bad grammar jokes, complain about social platforms and dissect the traditional/self-pub continuum. And I could write an entire book on what I’ve learned in the critique groups I’ve been a part of: to see everything I read and write through a critical eye, trust my reader more, show not tell … Even more important, they’ve been there to give moral support when any member feels ready to throw in the towel.
Now that I’ve been a part of one of these writing communities for a few years, I love to look at the dedication pages of books, especially from new authors and see their thanks to beta readers and critique groups; right up there next to family, because the truth is none of us will make it as writers in isolation. It takes a community of writers for any one of us to create a masterpiece.