Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Writing: The Solitary Path?

Picture the author: He (or she) is quiet, brooding, drinks and smokes too much, sits in a dark attic and pounds the keyboard. His hair is wild, uncombed, his razor unused, and his clothes ill-fitting and ill-matched. When forced out of his lair, he is socially awkward and impatient.

We’ve seen it in a dozen movies, read it in a hundred novels. Right?

But it’s wrong! It is a stereotype, possibly based upon someone, but I don’t believe it is the norm. True my social life mostly revolves around family, work, neighborhood, the boy’s school friends, synagogue, but I seem to have married or stumbled into these relationships, dictated by wife, children and geography. Let me stress that I love these people and value their friendship.

But there is something special when writers get together, something different. Whether this occurs at a chance meeting by the park playground, or by semi-chance while at a book signing, an author’s appearance or lecture.

Or whether it is organized – at my Writer’s group, at a California Writers Club meeting, a conference. Perhaps it is not even in person and happens online through a forum on LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo Groups or a dozen others

I love it when someone says: “Hey, I’ve just read your book.” I hope that thrill never disappears. But it’s an even greater thrill when a fellow writer tells me approvingly that they’ve read it. To hear someone praise your work when they truly appreciate, not just the plot, but the work that went into creating and finishing, and polishing, and putting it out there, and publishing, and marketing and…and…and…

I assume it is like this for all artists. When I tell a painter that I like her painting, or a musician that I like his music, does it matter that I can’t draw stick people without inflicting upon them unintentional deformity? Or that my tone deaf flat voice has been known to empty rooms before I even reach the chorus? Surely they appreciate the compliment more from a fellow artist or musician?

And then there is the critique, the honest suggestions from fellow writers who are investing some of their time and energy to help you craft a better story. And they are there for support – like when only two people attend a book reading that you painstakingly prepared for (and one of them is your mother).

I could never imagine writing collaboratively: my work is my own. But I could never imagine living as a writer in isolation. I would never survive the setbacks and would feel lonely even in my successes.

So here’s a Labor Day toast: to friends, to the rich literary scene and the Internet that helps bring us together.

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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