This past Saturday evening, we writers for The Consortium met at an IHOP joint for what we like to call “social writing.” If you haven’t yet investigated what The Consortium is all about, I recommend you go ahead and do that now.
No, really. Go on. I’ll wait.
Excellent. I’m most pleased you’ve satisfied your curiosity about something that’s quite near and dear to this writer’s heart. Now we can proceed.
When we writers mention “social writing,” what we think we mean is getting together to encourage each other and spend several hours working on our projects in the same location, one which most likely involves food and copious amounts of coffee.
What we actually mean, however, is talking for several hours about writing, philosophy, religion, humor, Consortium business, more philosophy, a smattering of politics, the food orders that didn’t make it to the table, the wait staff, fellow restaurant patrons, favorite beverages, everybody’s kids (or lack thereof), computer programming, fedoras, relationships, non-writing jobs, video games, and TV shows. After we’ve hashed all of that out, then we might discuss the actual craft of writing.
Oh, and then we might write a little.
This past Saturday, though, reality was more in tune with our ideals than ever before. Sure, we talked the philosophy and the business and the food-stuffs. I think fedoras actually made it into the conversation again, and there was no avoiding the TV-movie-computer palaver.
But then, wonder of wonders, we turned it all upside down and talked the specifics of our writings, and it was fantastic.
Josh used his soon-to-be-completed Weird Western to show us the coolness of Western-horror mashups. Aaron rejoiced in the then-future (now-present!) publication of his second novel, Ghost Targets: Expectation. Thomas delineated his struggle to bring together three plot arcs in his epic fantasy. Jessie shared her excitement in filling in story gaps, as well as her hopes of putting “The End” to her novel’s first draft very soon. I talked about publishing Book 1 of my paranormal trilogy this coming April.
The Writers Tribe hunkered around the fire and told its tales. We Council-ed the way we’ve rarely Council-ed before, can I can an amen? Testify!
One tribe member’s voice brought me up short, though. And that’s the one I really want to tell you about today.
Getting Tapped on the Shoulder
The voice that made me sit back and go “hmmmmm” was JT’s. He has started the first drafts of several novel-worthy stories, but none of them have pulled at him to finish them. As the rest of us discussed our noveling woes, he sat back and listened. In the course of the conversation, we got around to the point of how difficult it is to finish the first draft of anything–
–and how, as several of us put it, the first draft of anything is “crap.”
In one of the (very brief) lulls in the conversation, JT said, “You guys are making me not want to write.”
If you’d been present in that freezing little back room at IHOP, you would’ve seen an entire table of writers start backpedaling like Wile E. Coyote going off a cliff. None of us retracted our statements, but we each assured JT that we’ve all been there, we’ve all faced the blank page and the doubts about what happens next, we’ve all struggled with the quality of our first draft, our first book, etc.
The conversation meandered from there (as it so often does at social writings), and JT ended up telling us an extremely cool story idea he wants to start working on. But his initial lament stuck with me, and it reminded me of a few things I’d forgotten.
Speak Truthfully, But Carry a Feather (No Sticks!)
Writers love other writers. That’s pretty much a given. We’re a patchwork tribe of misfits who don’t always feel at home in other circles. We try to fit in elsewhere, and sometimes it works — but a lot of us end up getting hurt because our ideas and our dreams find a chilly reception…or, worse, indifference.
That’s why we need each other so much. We need to be able to sit down with others of our kind and spin crazy tales — and look across the campfire at a fellow writer and see complete acceptance in that other’s eyes. Without that fellowship, we feel lost and misunderstood and devalued.
Because we need each other so desperately, we also have a great obligation to each other. We have the responsibility of speaking the truth to each other. It is needful that we say, “Yes, all of our first drafts are bad. Yes, all of our first novels are bad.” We have no right to deny reality to a fellow writer.
But our first duty is to encourage each other. That’s why we found our way through the wilderness and to each other in the first place. We need those words of affirmation and those shared glances that say, “Dude, no, I don’t think you’re psycho. I think that kind of stuff, too.”
So, when we’re talking to each other, our top priority must be to praise and to strengthen. The harder realities can come later. First and foremost, we need to hear each other’s gentle reassurances. That’s what fortifies us against others’ criticisms. That’s what forms our circle of safety.
For us writers, that’s what creates home.
And that’s WILAWriTWe.