On Writing and Community
I’m thinking about writing, and reading about writing, and listening to podcasts on writing. I’m writing, and editing, and writing some more. With my fiction course in full swing and NaNoWriMo right around the corner, it seems every spare moment is given over to the craft of stringing words together, of making them sing.
I am enjoying this art more than I have in a long time, reveling in every moment, even the ones where an assignment is due and the words won’t come and the voices in my head tell me I am a failure, a hack, a joke. I had this thought the other day, and it shocked me, not because it isn’t true, but because there was an element of surprise in my head as I thought it: Writing is fun!
This isn’t to say I didn’t previously enjoy the craft, for I did. Rather, I loved writing but didn’t always find it fun, much as a parent might realize on a particularly difficult day that they always love their children but they don’t always like them. Now, though, I’m having fun – fun! – again. As I thought about why this might be last night, I had a revelation: I have a community now.
I have a community, in this class, a number of writer buddies I’ve found who love the art and craft of fiction. We read each other’s work. We comment on the things others are doing well, give suggestions for improvement. We cheer each other on, encourage each other, laugh about the silliness and quirks of our characters’ personalities and our own. I’ve entered entirely new worlds-in-progress through this class, met people from New Zealand and Istanbul and New Jersey and San Jose. And together, we’re writing, pursuing excellence.
I’ve always viewed writing as a bit of a solo sport, something one does secluded in a room of one’s own, with no distractions, no outside voices. And in many ways, it is. It must be. Stephen King, in his excellent memoir of the craft, On Writing, advises authors to “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.” But when that time to rewrite comes, when it’s time for the door to be flung open wide, it is so valuable to have a community of people there, ready to read your work, to support you, to offer criticism and praise. This is what I have found in this class – a community. One that I hope will continue even after the last assignment is completed.
I’ve found that writing (or perhaps, more accurately, rewriting) is best done together, in community, with others to support you, to encourage you, to cheer you on. Kind of like life.