Writing is a predominantly independent activity; long hours spent in front of a keyboard or with a pen and paper in hand, research, reading, pouring over grammar tips and agonizing over word choice- we have to go it alone for much of the journey simply because we would probably drive people insane if we didn’t. That being said, there is nothing more important to a writer than a good support system. This is a tough field to break into, and even for the novice, you want your words to get out there into the world, to reach someone.
Enter stage left: The Writing Group (queue the fog machine, a touch of mystery will go a long way here).
One of the things that I love most about Nano and the associated camp version- hands down, it’s the people. I have never been one to talk about my writing. Honestly, it took close to a year of dating before my fiancé had any idea that writing was even a hobby of mine. When I was a kid I was a bit more comfortable talking about it; but back then I was young and it was something that I won awards for- it was a good thing. As I grew older, I think people expected that I would grow out of it. Personally- I knew that would never happen, writing is in my very soul. But I also know that there are some things that people just don’t understand, and I was lacking the confidence I needed to stand up for my own interests. So I wrote in empty rooms with no one looking, and I hid the notebooks when people showed up. Even now- I can finally talk to people about the fact that I like to write, but it’s usually a subject saved for a time when I start to feel like I know them, and it’s not something I typically bring up in conversation on my own. It took my fiancé finally proclaiming to people that I was a writer for me to embrace that image. But there are some things I still hate: for example, when someone asks me what I am writing about. All of the old insecurities come to the surface when people want more details others thank ‘yes, I like to write in my free time.’ It doesn’t matter how inspired my ideas seem when I am plotting or writing them, the moment I have to give them life my breathing them into the world- I falter.
But then this magical event appeared on my Google search- Nano came to save the day. Suddenly, I was surrounded (virtually speaking) by people just like me. There is something distinctly different when you talk about your writing project with a ‘regular’ person vs when you talk about writing with someone else who shares your passion. It’s liberating, knowing that for once you are speaking the same language. I didn’t have to be self-conscious, and I certainly didn’t have to figure it all out on my own anymore. Stuck on a scene: the group will help you. Not sure if past tense or present tense would be a better fit: ask the group. Frustrated because the muse stood you up again, even after you had planned out the entire night, romantically lit by your laptop’s backlighting? The group will be your shoulder to cry on, the ear that acts as if they will never get bored with your whining tirades.
It is hard to find a band of renegades that will delve through these tiresome trials with you. But within them you will find the Ron and Hermoine to your Harry Potter, the Sam to your Frodo, the Watson to your Sherlock, the JARVIS to your Iron Man. When you are mired in the pages, bogged down with quotation marks, commas, and the dreaded semi-colon. They will fight beside you and make this lonely profession a bit more lively.
There was a time when I thought that writing had to be done in complete solitude; and this is true to a point. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. My writing groups are my biggest assets, the aces up my sleeve. They commiserate with my frustrations and celebrate my successes. We do that for each other because we have found kindred spirits, of sorts. They keep me on track and rescue me from my plot holes. They have opened my eyes to new ideas and ways of life, they have given me people to cheer for and helped me find confidence when I am sorely lacking. Sometimes you don’t expect that other people will be able to change you. And then they do. You don’t expect that you will want them or need their help. And then you will. You don’t have to be alone on this adventure, after all, even the best had their sidekicks to roam the Misty Mountains with.