I waffled a bit on the title for this post, considering “One is the loneliest number,” “You’re all alone, you know,” and the ubiquitous “Resources for writers.” But the idea–and the irony– is still the same. We write to share ideas with as many people as possible, yet in order to do that we have to spend hours and hours alone.
Writers are solitary creatures, but inevitably they need help from someone other than themselves. They need feedback. They need guidance. They need assistance in getting their brainchild on the bookshelves. This blog is intended to share the few things I know in this area.
As I have mentioned so many times before here, I spent a week in June at Park City, Utah with other writers. My original intent in going was to get some sort of measurement as to my writing skill in order to know where I should go in my endeavors. I found much more than that. So that will be number one on my list:
1. Writer’s Conferences. You can get a list of writer’s conferences easily enough online, or in the annual book Writer’s Market, or in various writing magazines. The trick here is to know why you are going, what you are trying to get out of the trip, and if that particular conference will provide that for you. Lists in books and online are great, but I highly recommend talking to someone else who writes. That’s how I heard about Writers@Work, the conference I went to. It was recommended to me by Susan Gardner, who teaches writing at Southwestern, and runs the Writing Center at the school. Often Writer’s Conferences are social events, made to make would-be writers feel good about themselves without really requiring them to write. That’s what I wanted to avoid. I am serious about writing, and wanted to surround myself with people who felt the same way. It’s your time and money, so make sure you invest it wisely.
2. Local writing chapters. This is another area where you need to be proactive in finding the right group. Most of the local writing groups I have attended have been filled with seniors who would like to think of themselves as writers, but spend more time talking about writing than doing it. I talked to my class at Park City about this, and the consensus was that you might need to build this from the ground up, hand selecting those who are in your group. Another option is to have an online group, but once again, be selective. A couple of young women in my class said they had a friend who had invited himself to their group and was dragging it down. Their solution was to dissolve the group, only to restart it a few weeks later without telling him. That seems cold blooded, I know, but you have to do what will work for you. Is it a social group, a support group, or a serious, critical group? You decide.
3. Individual assistants. Julianna Baggott, the teacher for our small fiction workshop at Park City, told us that she has two people she really depends on in her writing endeavors. She has a paid assistant who is finishing up a PhD in Creative Writing. She asks him to be as critical and brutally honest as possible with her writing, so that she can continue to improve. The second person she has working for her is her father, who is her researcher (not sure if she pays him or not). He checks to make sure her facts are correct. Note that neither of these people is hired to tell her good things about her writing, or keep her courage up. That’s probably the main reason why Ernest Hemingway never showed people his manuscript until it was completely finished. The writer always struggles with self-doubt, but sharing your manuscript too early tempts you to avoid the necessary rewrites.
4. Writer’s colonies. This is something new to me, and is something I hope to investigate next summer. Spread all across the United States and possible the world are small locations where are few writers are invited to spend a week or a month working on their craft. There’s usually free room and board, and possibly even a small stipend while they are there. Most of the day is committed to working on your writing, with the evening set aside to share with other writers. Sounds idyllic. As I said, I plan to investigate it and will share here what I discover.
There are many more venues for writing support, but I won’t deal with them today. In the end, it’s just you and the blinking cursor, or the ink pen if you prefer. And as I told my Feature Writing class yesterday, the only rule I have for writing is putting words on paper.
So get to work.