When I facilitated a writer’s group I collected resources into a giant three-ring binder. One of those hefty things that, when full, needed a commercial style refrigerator dolly with canvas straps to move. Or so it seemed when carrying it.
I used it to find topics to discuss in the group and then when the group ended, I used it to collect dust. Lots of dust. And cobwebs. And desiccated bug casings.
Then a few months ago my son made the mistake of asking me about plot development. I tried to hide my inner writer who was screaming ‘My son writes!!!’. I tried to not overwhelm him because it was obvious he was very hesitant about coming out of the writing closet. A feeling I fully understood. So I remained calm and answered his question.
Then sent him home with the cobwebs and dead bugs. He was actually thrilled with the notebook.
It got me wondering why I didn’t keep it dusted because it really did have a lot of good information. Here’s what I realized.
My source for information in writing is now found within fellow writers and the internet. But especially those writers. I can go to them with any question. I can dump drafts on them and beg for polishing help.
And I don’t have to blow cobwebs off of them.
Then I started wondering what I did for help when I was very young and writing in secret. There was no internet back then. I knew no writers because I barely understood that I was one. I didn’t know the library had resources. I was nine years old.
I just wrote. Stories for myself. Eventually I shared them with my closest friends at slumber parties where we would laugh ourselves silly over stories we’d written. Later I attended a writer’s conference (huge mistake; didn’t write for months afterwards). And I finally discovered a fellow writer in someone I worked with and the writer’s group grew from that.
But the important thing is that I simply wrote. Alone, with no true understanding of what was going on. Not even a true understanding of why.
I know now that resources and support are invaluable. Not only to learn the craft but to share enthusiasm and inspiration. Whether the support comes from a few friends laughing in all the right places, a spouse who will clean the house, or a writer’s group that pushes you out of your comfort level. Or even if the only support is the quiet of moments alone with paper and pen.
In some ways I wish I’d been braver sooner and that someone had blown cobwebs off a notebook for me. Yet at the same time, I cherish those young years of sitting at a desk with ruled paper and pencil, words pouring forth in a horrible tangle with no concept of story structure or character development.
Just me and the words.