A Beginning Writer

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.

badlands 2

Now twenty and writing

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.

Lisa Easter 1965

Dressed up for Easter. There was paper in that purse.

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.

Writer’s Groups

I am feeling nostalgic for a former writer’s group I facilitated for over ten years. Missing that camaraderie and inspiration.

A friend who inspires for more than just writing.

A friend who inspires for more than just writing.

Unfortunately, over the years the group became stagnant. A few writers marked progress, as defined by simply writing for some, publishing for others, and for a few, just showing up. But others talked about the same things after ten years that they did at the beginning. And some, I believe, were there simply for social interaction as they never talked about anything remotely connected to writing.

Social interaction with friends or forced labor?

Social interaction with friends or forced labor?

In the end, worn down by the struggle to not allow a select few to ruin it for others, and having spectacularly failed in getting anyone to share facilitating, I ended the group.

I meet with one writer now and we accomplish a lot. Accomplishments include coffee and chocolate, lots of laughing, lots of talking about writing, kicking around ideas, critiquing each other’s work, and all the things that allow us to leave inspired. Everything a group should be.

At our last caffeine and sugar enhanced get together, we reminisced about the former group. I said how much I missed feeling excited to work afterwards.

I feel the urge to start another small group in a location closer to home for the selfish reason of missing that support, interaction, inspiration, and challenge from multiple writers. Then the roadblocks arise.

I already have work meetings four days a month.

I can’t make the monthly Sisters in Crime meeting now because of the long drive and dogs being cooped up too many hours.

Skywalker von Stowe (aka Luke)

Skywalker von Stowe (aka Luke)

To avoid past issues I’ll have to have rules of conduct and be prepared to enforce them.

Do I want all that again, for those moments of writing joy, not only for me, but for others? There are no writer’s groups in the area where I am. If I want to attend one, I have to create one.

Then of course there’s this – another evening taking up with a meeting equates to another evening not writing.

So where else can that much-needed interaction with writers come from? Online?

Where do you get your social interaction, your support and encouragement for art, the push to improve, the prod to stretch? If you attend a group, why? If you interact online, why? What makes the interaction work for you?

How do you balance providing all that for others and at the same time, not forgetting to provide for your own artistic health?

I would love to know.