Sunday, May 6, 2012

Kindred Spirits: The Importance of Fellow Writers

Yesterday afternoon I was able to spend some time in conversation with playwright, filmmaker and cartoonist, Jane Shepard. We had gone to junior high and high school together and had gotten to know each other when we were in the school play together. There is something refreshing and energizing about communing with kindred spirits of the quill.

Only another writer really knows what you are going through when you suffer for your art. (Excuse me while I put the back of one hand to my forehead and swoon.) There is nothing romantic or dramatic about our "suffering" It is one of frustration when our characters won't do what we were expecting them to do. No matter how many times it happens, it is always a bit startling when your characters take on a life of their own. Suddenly you find that your are no longer writing what you thought you were. Only another writer can understand and truly empathize with this experience. Non-writers are baffled by this phenomenon, truly believing that we writers are a form of literary god who can make the characters do whatever we want. Ah, if only it were so easy.

There is little about writing that can truly be classified as "easy." I had a friend who once commented that she wished she could write well so easily. My response was something to the effect of , "Yeah, if you consider sweating blood easy."

We don't write because it is easy. Few of us find it all that easy. What we do find is that it is a  worthwhile and compelling effort. We get something intangible back from it, like the fight well fought. Through it we gain a larger understanding of the world around us.

We need to find ways to connect with other writers, if for no other reason to know that we are not alone and not crazy. Other writers know how to talk us down off of the ledge when we are ready to jump. Other writers are the ones who understand why writing has driven many authors throughout history to become raging alcoholics and suffer from depression.

I am most fortunate that I am surrounded by writers now. My next door neighbor is a writer and we chat often about writing. There is the aforementioned Jane, who has recently resurfaced in my life thanks to Facebook. Then on Facebook I belong to a number of writing chat groups. Here we connect, commiserate, complain, and contemplate. We are there for each other for the good and the bad, and everything in between. We have supportive and caring conversations, disagreements, and completely inane conversations. These discussion threads would often make little sense to non-writers. It gives us community in what is a very solitary vocation (or avocation).

If you are unable to find a support group to meet with in person, find one online. Take a class on writing. Find a cafe that has an open mike night for poets. If not writers, then artists and musicians will do nicely. The creative process is the same, if not the actual act in how you manifest it. Go -- find your kindred!


  1. This is very true. Having fellow writers around makes for such a great support system. How many times have some of our best ideas sprung from kindred-spirit conversations?

    You're awesome, btw.

  2. What you said is very true. Without other writers, I think I would have given up on writing a long time ago. It helps so much to have people who understand what I'm going through!