Writers Need Writers

Writers are odd creatures. Maybe all artists are. Sometimes we have to hibernate, hole up inside ourselves and think. I’ve been busy generating material for my memoir for over a year now, without posting a peep on my blog. That’s not to say I haven’t been thinking, as the name of the blog might lead you to conclude. Quite the contrary, I’ve been generating and thinking so much that I’ve barely taken time to breathe.

I don’t want to feed the misconception that writers are all introverts who work in solitude. I am an introvert, no doubt, but I don’t work in solitude. Not exclusively, anyway.

Right now I’m sitting at a desk in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I’ve been talking with 100-some fellow writers for several days (okay, to be fair, I’ve probably only actually spoken to 20-some of them, but I’ve eavesdropped on some of the others’ conversations, too). We talk about our works-in-progress. Most of the chatter is about craft. We say things like, “I’d like to slow the tempo down here a bit, but I’m not sure how to do that.” And someone answers, “Why don’t you take a second to zoom out on the physical surroundings? That will ground us in the scene and hold us there, especially if you choose details that metaphorically represent the character’s state of mind.”

Okay, we don’t always sound that smart. It often takes us 30 minutes or more to even articulate our goal, and another 30 minutes or more for someone to offer a possible solution. But I know enough about narrative pacing to know that you don’t want to read the entire roundabout conversation.

Sometimes our conversations stray from craft. We sometimes sound like amateur psychotherapists. “You keep stopping shy of saying something. You’re clearly dancing all around the issue. Why do you feel you can’t say it?” I write nonfiction, memoir in fact, so these questions and answers are critical to the writing process. But I hear my colleagues in fiction having them, too. After all, we do write about what haunts us, don’t we?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that writers can’t succeed in a vacuum. Writers need writers. I don’t want you to think that—just because I haven’t been updating my blog—I’ve been holed up in a room somewhere by myself. But I promise to try to get back in the habit of blogging.

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