“Writing is a solitary occupation.” – Jessamyn West
I don’t know much about Jessamyn West, but I think she has the author’s life right. I also think she’s got it completely wrong. The quote goes on to speak of interruptions and the need to be completely alone in order to finish the task of writing. And I get it. I do my best work when I’m hidden away in my office with the door firmly shut. What goes on the page is completely up to me, and no one else is responsible to see it done. In this way, a writer’s life is solitary, but it isn’t only solitary.
To write well, a fiction author has to craft people, places, and events for the reader to enjoy. Without human interaction, an author has less to draw from in the creation of their characters. Internet research is great, but it can’t compare to real life experience an author pours onto the pages. In these ways, an author needs life outside of their own existence.
They also need community. The actual work of writing is done alone, but it is of great benefit to authors to have a place to find encouragement and support. The local writing group I’m part of has cheered me on in my writing journey. They’ve encouraged me to keep going when I get discouraged. They’ve helped my work become stronger through editing and writing exercises.
In the Lord of the Rings Frodo and Sam discuss whether or not the journey they’re on is the stuff of stories. Sam talks about Frodo and how important he is, but Frodo encourages them not to forget about Sam. He says , “Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam.” Families and writing groups are the Sam to every author’s Frodo. They are the perfect addition to the writer’s toolbox for getting through the hard times.
Sometimes it’s more about what an author doesn’t know that pulls them from their solitude. Whether they’ve written one book or ten, there are always things for an author to learn. Whether it’s improvement of the craft of writing, finding out the latest trends in publishing, experimenting with the latest tools and apps, or locating the best book bloggers to get their work seen, there is always something an author isn’t an expert on. These are perfect times for authors to join with other like-minded authors and attend a conference.
Conferences serve many purposes. They train authors of all levels of expertise in areas where they are weakest. They allow authors to network with other authors and bloggers in a relatively non-frightening environment. (I say relatively because social situations are never completely comfortable for those of us who are introverts!) And conferences give authors opportunity to present their work to publishers and agents. There’s relatively little chance for solitude at a conference, and that’s okay.
Solitude is wonderful when we’re trying to get the words down on paper. But we must remember this thing that’s pushing for our solitude is also urging us to join with others. Being together for a time will help us be better writers when we’re alone.
More About Heather:
Heather Greer grew up as a pastor’s kid in rural southern Illinois. Though completely unexpected, she became a pastor’s wife thirteen years ago, when her husband answered the call to preach. Heather has had the opportunity to minister to all age groups, but teens and women tend to be where God most often leads her. When she isn’t writing or working with various ministries, Heather loves to bake and spend time with her husband, children, and grandson. Of course, she’s always willing to sit down with a cup of cocoa and watch the latest Hallmark channel movie too!
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Website and blog: www.heathergreer.com