Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

Being the only ‘creative’ type in my group of ‘real world’ friends I’ve discovered just how different my hobbies are from theirs. I have friends who coupon (a hobby I still don’t quite understand). They sit together with stacks of Sunday paper’s and like military strategists they set to cutting, clipping and trolling the internet until the air around them is filled with newspaper confetti and they’re ready to buy discounted laundry detergent by the cartful. I also have some health nut friends. They Zumba, they yoga, they take a perfectly good Saturday morning when they could be sleeping and go out jogging and sweating…for fun! And I have some single friends who seem to take weekend partying as a hobby. They spend Friday’s lunch hour in the mall, Friday night in a bathroom lifting, plucking, and tweezing and then take a perfectly good Friday night when they could be curled up on the sofa with a book and some tea and instead surround themselves with throngs of frantically dancing sweaty people while drinking overpriced watered down vodka.  Yep, I am the oddball. But watching them in all their various pursuits has driven one point home to me.

Writing is a solitary exercise.

I don’t consider writing a hobby. It’s my passion, but if I’m going to use my best friends definition (“Do they pay you for it? No? Then it’s a hobby.”) then hobby’s the word we’ll go with. If I had to choose between a million different activities, nine times out of ten I can guarantee I’ll choose writing. I carry napkins in my purse and have a notepad on the passenger’s seat of my car so I can take notes at stop lights. When people tell me about their day or their lives or the funny thing their Grandma Rose did at the family reunion I don’t just laugh – I turn that anecdote around in my head just to see if there’s a story in it. When I hear songs I see scenes. When I hear a great phrase on a commercial I write it down for later use. I’m hopeless. I’m a writer.

But the more I write the more I notice that while my friends can take the things they love and share it with people who love the same thing, I’ve spent much of my writing life on the sidelines, notebook in hand – alone. Any writer can testify to the awkwardness that ensues when a non-writer says “how’s the book/story going?”. You mistakenly think they actually want to know then are treated to one minute of actual interest followed by ten minutes of vacant staring while you tell them all about how frustrating it is that your main character won’t talk to you. To the rest of the world we are a bit of an anomaly. We love to do something that, by the numbers, isn’t likely to make most of us wealthy or famous. We spend days and nights surrounded by words and images of our own making. We don’t mind turning of the television and escaping into a world we’ve created. We’re strange. But we embrace it.

So is it a bad thing, this solitary experience? Is it wrong to prefer the company of characters in our minds to people in our lives?


And Yes.

I have an intense pride in the fact that I can find happiness without a crowd around. Unlike many people I don’t mind being alone – I don’t mind the sound of my own voice (you’ve probably picked up on this already) or being with my own thoughts. It’s the attitude I had when I started writing fan fiction. I was happy to write and happy when people enjoyed it but didn’t really think there was any point to interacting with people beyond that. And then something changed.

It wasn’t really any huge moment. It started with an email. The email said:

To: TheWrtrInMe
From: DwynArthur
Subject: Still Looking for a Beta?

Yep, nothing earth shattering there. I opened it and what I thought would be one simple conversation from someone willing to help with my horrific grammar, turned into a friendship I’m sure I’ll value for all of my life. It wasn’t a huge step and I’d only extended my circle by one person, but it changed something. Two months later after reading a particularly interesting story (one of those stories that’s good but you know it could be really REALLY good if the author put in some more time and effort?) I contacted an author. This author wasn’t your run of the mill, in fact, I’d just witness her serving up a heaping helping of “back the fuck off” to a reviewer who’d sent her a flame. She was scary. Surprisingly my email to her didn’t just give me the chance to work with a great author, it was the beginning of a friendship that’s extended beyond the computer and into my real life. I think she is fantastic. She thinks I’m pretty awesome too. We have a friendship full of completely inappropriate conversations and insults hurled at each other that make people think we’re enemies. We are strange. We embrace it. And I never would have met her if I’d been content to be alone; to stay alone.

There are a million more stories like that and a million writers who’ve come into my life since then: annierocket who is kind and brave and wise beyond her years, SouthernB3lle whose quiet grace lives up to her name, mionerachel one of the most encouraging people I know, who’s become my writing kindred spirit, melixgvardo who helped me see that encouraging someone else to take the writing leap can be almost as satisfying as taking it  yourself, Melix875 who is helping to teach an old dog some new tricks. Hundreds of people, some came and went – others have stuck around. All of these people have helped me to see that as much as I love the solitude of writing, there is a special kind of joy when you can find others who love it as much as you – and share your passion with them.

It’s a village really. A giant extended network of people, just like me, but not just like me, who love what I love. They get emotional over words. They find beauty in a turn of phrase. They understand the frustration of writer’s block and the soul deep satisfaction of finishing a story. Some write in a different style than I do. Some write about different things than I do. Some of them can write a story that makes you laugh so  hard you almost pee yourself, and some of their writing can reduce me to racking tears. We’re different in our process but in our passion, we’re the same. And in this village I’ve learned something:

Writing is a solitary exercise…but it doesn’t mean you have to be alone.

Now on Fridays when my friends are getting ready to toss back their watered down Amaretto Sours, Saturday morning when they’re headed off to sweat it up to latin drum beats, Sunday afternoon when they’re pouring over the double dollar coupon flyers I feel a little less like I’m missing something. I’m stil strange, I still prefer my laptop and pj’s to stilettos and house music, but now, when they give me the vacant stare I just smile. They don’t get it, but that’s okay.

Because now, I’m not alone anymore. I belong to a village.



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