Thursday, September 1, 2016

Writing is/is not a Solitary Activity

I've heard a lot of people - ordinary people on the street; published authors; editors; writing facilitators/professors/teachers/mentors; others - say that "writing is a solitary activity." Which I think is true, in some ways. Not true always. And while I do think that the act of writing is a thing we can do alone, we may often do alone, the process of creativity and writing is not something we do alone. It takes a bunch of people to make this writing thing we do move from our brain and hands onto the page, be it electronic or printed.

The writer alone in the room writing.

Does it happen? Yes, absolutely. And, no. Is that the everything of writing? Sitting alone and putting words onto the page/screen?

For those who may think of, or actually do, their writing entirely alone, cool. Good. Do what works.

But I think, like the photos below which I took from the balcony in LACMA on our visit last March, to get the writing out into the world it takes more than just the person doing the writing. Each process may look different for different writers; I'm sure it does.

But, like these people carrying the long tube/rolled up something/whatever it is up the stairs, it would be a nearly impossible task for one person. But together they were talking, laughing, serious, and it was smooth and easy and they nearly glided up the steps.

A few days ago I applied to another Writing By Writers conference taking place later next year. And I was accepted. It is a different group, in general, from my tribe of writers, but it's a good group and there is overlap. It was a life altering experience last spring and I want to do it again. I was among writers and I felt like a writer; I was - and am - a writer.

But my tribe of writers is bigger than that. There are two other groups which have been huge supporters in this writing process and continue to be. Several individuals in particular - but even the groups as a whole, because they are led by two people who attract good people to them. They lead by example and believe in all of us and hold space for use to create and develop. Without these two groups, I wouldn't have the manuscript I'm editing right now. I wouldn't have the short story collection in process, or the guts and energy to tackle NaNoWriMo again this year, even though I'm still editing the manuscript (I hoped to have it done before November, but unless I get a supercharge of writing time and energy, I'm not sure I'll make it). I still have moments of doubt about whether I should be writing, if my writing is "any good," if the story is worth putting out there, and so on.

Some days I'm the "tube" and I'm being buoyed by my fellow Corporeal Writing writers, and the authors I've met through Lidia Yuknavitch's workshop series, gliding along knowing that I am one of them. Some days I am one of the "tube bearers" and supporting and lifting up other writers with feedback or head nods and encouragement, or just being witness. My years of workshops in the Literary Kitchen with Ariel Gore and fabulous Wayward Writers was similar, although that tribe is online, and it is a solid foundation I carry with me now.

I am also fortunate to have a writer friend who I get to meet with on a pretty regular basis for shared writing time and feedback. See? Again, not alone. Sometimes we are writing simultaneously. We are not working on the same project - but we are sharing space and mutual accountability for showing up - and writing. I've had a few writing groups off and on; I think I'd like one of those, too, but am waiting and open for the right configuration of writers with compatible time and space to come along. Or maybe I'm waiting for me to make the time and space so it can happen; which I think I'm on the right track and am in the process of opening up some space in my schedule for more writing.

The tube. The tube carriers. Writing is solitary activity. Writing is a community activity.