Saturday, February 20
Internet Friends and "Live" Writers
A little while ago, we had a couple of posts on here about the value of being in a critique group. My critique group sustains me, although they're often too prolific to keep up with! They're the first emails I read with my coffee in the morning. Although none of us have ever met, we chat daily about our lives as well as our WIPs, successes, and failures.
Thursday night was the first night of an actual "live" writing course I signed up for here on the Base where I live. I've taken many online courses over the years, and even taught one myself, but it's been years since I sat down with a bona fide writing teacher and class of students, all clutching their binders, notebooks, and water bottles. One man only used pencils and had a large bunch of them secured with a heavy elastic. One woman was colour-coordinated with a huge purple water bottle, purple notebook, and purple pencil case. Purple is actually my favourite colour but it's never occured to me to fashion coordinate my writing tools. I started to wonder if years of sitting behind a computer monitor was what was stifling my creativity. Maybe I should start writing long hand in green ink?
The teacher actually made us write for two hours. It was fabulous. I haven't written exercises for two hours straight for years. She made us write with our eyes shut so we couldn't see the words forming long hand on our pages. This was to help "shut off the inner editor" and I highly recommend it if you're having problems in that area. Even shutting your eyes while typing on the keyboard frees up your mind. (I know, I tried it when I got home) She gave us homework - ack! I hadn't expected that, and I was turning my weeks schedule over in my mind as I packed up my gear. I'm behind on crits for my group, behind on my volunteer work for my writing chapter, behind on my contest entry, behind on my WIP, and she wants homework?? I shuddered as I got in to my truck to head home.
This morning, instead of doing my homework, I headed to the library for my first visit with the local County Writers Group. They were warm and welcoming, but my first reaction - as horrible as it sounds - was that they were all senior citizens. I'm just past the glow of my 50th birthday and refuse to give in to thinking of myself as "middle-aged". When you hit these age milestones it definitely makes you take stock of your life and where you're at with your goals. I was the youngest one there and felt as out of place as a runway model at a Weight Watchers meeting. My reaction was shot down, however, when they began reading their "homework" from last month - most were witty, had double entendres (especially the men!), and colourful.
They have a network already set up for contests, submission calls, and short story publishers. The only ripple came when we were talking about marketing opportunities and I mentioned blogs. They all looked at me as though I'd turned in to a blue Na'vi from Avatar. I had to explain the concept to them, falling over my words, and vowing inside I will never age without being on the cusp of technology and what's going on in the world.
There's a lot to be said for making friends with "real" people who can support you in your writing. I live in a small town (the military Base practically IS this town) and had despaired when we moved here of finding even one person who actually wrote - anything. I've relied totally for the past year on my Internet friends and wonderful critique group for encouragement and support. Thinking back on the past week and my return to "live" groups of writers, I'd have to say the two styles go hand in hand. The "live" ones will force me to do homework and come up with something every week, and once a month. My critique partners will force me to look at my WIP and make it better. And better. And hopefully, better still.