Writing is a largely lonely occupation. It is something you do hunched over a desk, possibly with breaks for communal lunches and phone calls with friends at night and, hopefully, with the final comments of thoughtful editors and agents. But the creative process is done alone.
A few months ago I joined a writing group. That makes it sound very formal. It is not at all. There are three of us, were friends, the other two just happen to be great writers. We are all working on books. I’m the only one doing non-fiction, the others are working on fiction novels. They know far more than I do about plot and character creation and literary illusions and language and imagery, and all the other fascinating stuff that you learn if you do an MFA in Creative Writing.
When we first started meeting I was a tad nervous, it was the first time I was showing my very personal memoir to people who knew me. I was also horribly intimidated.
Luckily, they stepped softly on my manuscript. They also showed me their work and listened as I gave them my feedback. They asked questions, they pushed me to do better.
We started over sensible afternoon tea, then less-sensible cocktails and, finally, supper. We have kept our other-halves up till midnight wondering where we were, and how talking about writing could possibly keep us out so late.
I wrote the book thanks to the amazing support of my parents, Jeremy and my friends and because of the honesty of the hundreds of people I interviewed. But my writer’s group made sure that I handed in my manuscript, on time and in a respectable fashion, to the publisher two days ago.
I hope that I would have created a reasonable book if I had never met them, but I’m not sure. They shaped my thoughts and kept me writing. I suspect the book would have been very different and I know, for certain, that the writing would have been a lot less fun without them.
It turns out that I’m a communal creature after all. I suspect that most of us are. I’d love to hear about any groups that you are in that keep you on track, sane and motivated?