About Me

My photo
Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Myth of the Solitary Writer

Hello hello!

Lately, I've been involved in a writing group for the first time. I do have editors and mentors, but I'd actively avoided a small round-table support group. At first, it was out of snobbery and artistic conceit, but also out of shyness; eventually, I realised that it was both okay and important to rely on others. It turned out to be a great decision, and a lot of fun. In addition to being a writer, I am a professional freelance editor, and have been for several years. I'm a member of quite a few groups on Facebook, and have many clients, friends, and clients who are friends there.

The myth (is a lie)

When I was growing up, I took in the idea that all industries needed to be as separated from clients and personal life topics as physicians are from their patients, and also that writers are always people alone in a cabin or a cold corner of a room, scribbling or typing away frantically at their masterpiece whenever the muse hits them. I definitely got the idea that writers had to deal with a certain amount of suffering and torture as well.

Margaret Atwood has a pithy quote for young writers about how we need not seek out suffering; "write, and the suffering will take care of itself". Still, there's something to be said for the high rates of mental illness and neurodivergence among creative types. I myself certainly fit into this demographic. History, both recent and less recent, is rife with lonely, tortured types flinging themselves off to a typewriter and drinking whiskey miserably while they type. H.P. Lovecraft, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leo Tolstoy, and Vladimir Nabokov all come to mind instantly.

Here's the thing - writing cannot be done alone. That's bullpuckey. First of all, these great men (tm) had wives and children and maids following them around and handling the mundane tasks that their delicate, artistic constitutions couldn't handle. I recently posted on Facebook about that particular topic.

I was talking with Andrey Taskaev about life extension technology, and what it would mean. (Now, he has been awesome at cleaning the house lately, so this ain't shade.)
To be honest, I'm kind of done with existentialism, very over it. If you think life is inherently boring, and a trap or a cage, maybe you need to DO something. It's like, a philosophy of white male privilege. If you're THAT bored, f**kin' help your wife around the house!
Bored of climbing great mountaintops? Then f**kin' go to a library and help some kids, dude! If life is boring, you aren't trying hard enough. Boredom is the ultimate luxury, and it can be a fertile creative ground...but not if you get sucked into the trap of seeing other people as robots, or insignificant insects.
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts about infinite life and life extension and stuff. 

Writing as a social exercise?

While Virginia Woolf's comments about having "a room of one's own" and space to write ARE relevant, and while writing does sometimes mean sitting in front of a computer or typewriter for HOURS while slogging away at something, it doesn't have to mean always doing so alone.

Lately, I've been participating in "writing parties", where myself and a few others sit in the same room and just write. The air of concentration can really help one focus, and the occasional breaks for conversation to help or get help from others can also be very useful. I also participate in a "work buddy" thread on Facebook where myself and some friends bounce ideas off each other, do writing sprints, and discuss projects.

Why do we need people?

First, many of us are mentally ill or have challenges, and it's important to involve oneself with others and build a support network. Second, human beings are social animals. This is a basic tenant of social psychology, so go read up on that on Wikipedia or take a course if you don't believe me. Third, it's easy to get into excessive self-loathing or excessive self-aggrandizement, or worse, BOTH at once, without others to talk to. Fourth, you can get help with plotting or something when you get stuck. Fifth, writing has never actually been that solitary.

Yes, people do require support, and yes, women get disproportionately less support for their writing time, but it doesn't have to be like this. By leaning on our partners or friends, or by giving them support as needed, anyone can be more productive and feel that writing is less futile or lonely. In a new century and new era of intimacy and connection, we have access to millions of people across the globe. I've never met some of my best friends in person - or rather, I haven't met them yet - and some of the ones I have met live in different cities.

In Virginia Woolf's day and even in the early 20th century, people lived very entwined lives. They had servants and friends and families around, whether they wanted them or not. Now, connection with others requires conscious effort, but it's so worthwhile and important. Writers don't have to pretend that they're alone anymore.

Who are some of your most important supports? 

No comments:

Post a Comment

As always, be excellent unto others, and don't be a dick.