Friday, February 18, 2011

Is Writing a Solitary Pursuit?

Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessons adversity by dividing and sharing it.
--Cicero 106BC-43 BC)

Writing is a solitary pursuit.

I disagree.

I've always written. I scrawled down short stories, scenes, and plots. It wasn't until a friend of mine challenged me to enter a contest that I became serious. Together we worked on our stories, bouncing off ideas, supporting each other when we felt it was an impossible task. I finished my story and so did she--we entered that contest.

Neither of us won.

I learned a few things:
  1. Writing is a craft and I had a LOT to learn.
  2. My friend was a valued resource as I wrote.

I've continued to write--and the my circle of writing friends and critique partners have grown. They bring with them their own set of skills. I find that these relationships have enriched my writing and personal life.

Below I've listed some of the gifts/skills my friends bring to me. I just hope that I give the same to them:

  • Cheer leaders: They encourage, harass, and push so I get my stories done
  • Plotters/Brainstorm: I bounce ideas with them--it motivates me.
  • Detail: They point out flaws in my story, or help me clarify what I've missed.
  • Grammar: One whom I am eternally grateful for--helps me dig me out of grammar hell.
  • Challenge: There are a few of us who challenge each other--one chapter a week. No matter how bad and send it. (no-one reads it...its the fact you finished it that counts)
  • Beta Readers. That they want to read it, thrills me.
  • Laughter: Friends who make you laugh are worth their weight in gold.
  • Support: I have a friend who will always have a pot of tea (or a glass of wine) when I need it--and a good meal to celebrate.
  • Venting: Yes, we all need at times to vent. It is the good friend who listens and commiserates in your misery. It is the great friend that doesn't allow you to wallow in it.
  • Misc: You know, there is always a friend that is exactly what you need when you need it.

Many of these friends I have not met in person, but it doesn't lesson their value to me. I try to give to them as much as they give to me. Its amazing how one sentence of support can make your day after you've re-written that chapter five times.

Ultimately, I have to write the book or the story-by myself. I have to sit down and put it on the page, but I am not alone. At any time I can pick up the phone or send a panicked email to one of my friends and help is on the way.

So, what do you think? Is writing a solitary pursuit? Or do you have a circle of friends/critique partners that help?

Like the quote above, my friendships make everything brighter--even writing.


Callie James said...

I've made quite a few friends on this path to publication, so I have to agree. We're on our own when we write, but there's a lot of sharing and support involved that keeps us from going crazy.

M.V.Freeman said...

Agreed Callie, I'm not sure I would've come as far as I have without all those I have met!

Including you! :D

RedPeril said...

I think that while one -can- technically write in isolation, it isn't a particularly grand idea. No more than rock-climbing or scuba-diving are advisable as solitary ventures. ...Okay, that may be a bit dramatic. I suppose there's little risk of literal death with our preferred activity. But literary death can be it's own tragedy.

Writing(apart from the dead languages) is an adaptive, dynamic process. Writers are as much a conduit for the craft as they are its architects. And as such, it behooves them to be in relationships of giving and recieving input. I'd contend that personal growth in most areas of life is an aspect of human nature that's been hard-wired to benefit from relationships. (I say this begrudgingly, as an introvert who often prefers the company of inanimate objects to that of living creatures.)>.>

I'd been writing for years before I came across other writers, the entire time feeling like it was an impractical self-indulgence. Finding an entire group of people who shared a degree of passion for it nearly set me on fire. I don't think I understood my own love for it until I surrounded myself with those who were willing to encourage and challenge me. My productivity rate in the last year alone would seem to prove your assertion! ;)

Anne Gallagher said...

I'm in isolation a goodly amount of the time. I love the blog world and have many wonderful creative friends who I share my work with, BUT, what I really want for Christmas is a REAL LIFE person to share it with. I miss TALKING about my writing. The keyboard misses so many nuances in speech.

M.V.Freeman said...

Redperil--I agree with you. I am an introvert by nature. I don't like large groups of fact I avoid them.

Except for writing. I find I can sit in with a room full of writers and feel at home. (although I must admit, I prefer smaller groups of 2-5).

I would not have gotten to where I am, or finished what I have--if I hadn't had these relationships.

So lets keep accomplishing! :D

M.V.Freeman said...

I wish you lived closer, I'd have you to tea post-haste to talk about writing!

I didn't think there were others out there like me--until the internet. Don't give up!

If you are ever near my neck of the woods--North Alabama, let me know and I'll make sure you meet some writing people! :-)

Carla Swafford said...

What a lovely post, Mary. And so true. Hugs.

M.V.Freeman said...

Thanks Carla!
Hugs to you too! :)

Louisa Cornell said...


Writing can be a solitary act, but you have captured completely the difference between writing in the romance genre and writing in other genres. I don't know if it is because romance writing is dominated (no pun intended) by women or if it is just the nature of the genre, we tend to spend more time with other writers - supporting each other, picking each others brains, critiquing each other. It makes for some really wonderful friendships and as Callie said it keeps many of us sane!

I have been very fortunate on this journey to have met and made some wonderful friends. The amazing thing is that two authors whose work I truly admire (one for long before I returned to writing and one along the same time I started my return)have become mentors and friends to me. Their belief in me and encouragement has been invaluable.

And then there are the ladies of Southern Magic and the other writers in the trenches with me who make me laugh, commiserate with me, encourage me and give me a swift kick if needed.

Sometimes its just nice to know you aren't going through all of this head banging, screaming, hair pulling torture alone!

M.V.Freeman said...

Louisa, I agree with you it is very unique to this genre. Maybe because in romance--we have to mine the depth of our emotions. I'm not sure. All I know is that it's nice to know, we all walk the twisted valley of highs and lows together.

And Southern Magic is truly a most gracious place to be! :-)

A man called Valance said...

'Is writing a solitary pursuit?'


M.V.Freeman said...

Mr. V,
Short and sweet! It's always a pleasure to see you here!

A man called Valance said...

Thanks, Em.