Last weekend I was at a writers retreat. What were we retreating from?
I think in one way or another we all chose to be there to enjoy a reprieve from the status quo. We were retreating from normalcy.
For most writers most of the time, writing is a solitary activity. We toil in isolation, often foregoing social interaction so that we may create: linking letters to produce words to string together to form sentences to make paragraphs that result in chapters which emerge as books. We do this by ourselves.
Working alone is efficient. Writing without human distraction is effective, the practical way to proceed – at least for our art but not so much for our person. Personally we need people from time to time. Being with other writers is critical.
Connection: Non-writers don’t understand why we write. Our drive to produce remains a mystery to them. They may tolerate and accommodate our ways, but comprehending why we do what we do, evades them. Other writers get this.
Commiserate: Writing can be hard. Sometimes the words don’t flow or our output doesn’t work. Other times the path to publication is blocked. And when produced, sometimes the audience doesn’t respond as we wish. Other writers understand this, offering comfort or advice.
Consulting: Sometimes writers become stuck. We don’t know how to fix a troubled passage, put our story arc back on track, or correct words that refuse to cooperate. Sometimes we need a second set of eyes, a fresh perspective, or input from someone who’s preceded us on that path. Other writers are often the best equipped to help.
Celebrate: Who better understands our triumphs than other writers? When we sell a story, publish a poem, find an agent, sign a book deal, or hold our product in our hands, it’s other writers who cheer the loudest. We all need applause from time to time.
Cooperate: As writers, we need to promote our work; we must market our product. We despise condescending into the dark side of art, but we need to reach our audience and sell our books. Working with other writers, often in an informal cooperative, is an ideal way to make this easier and more effective.
Comfortable: We don’t need to explain ourselves to other writers. They offer acceptance and a safe place to be ourselves.
Community: We find all these things when we connect with other writers. Our community might be a critique group, a seminar, a conference, a Facebook page or Google+ group, a blog, a class, a retreat, or maybe all of these.
Though not every community is positive and supportive, we keep the ones that are and jettison the rest. We do this for our writing and for our well-being.