Joanna struggling in her garret?
The poor, lonely writer in her dark and dingy garret, struggling with her words…
Makes you want to weep in sympathy, doesn’t it?
Except that I have to admit that my garret…er…isn’t.
- My writing room is on the ground floor rather than an attic.
- It has light from three windows facing the garden.
- And I have company, in the shape of a friendly troll called Olaf (who has made an appearance before on these pages).
But still, it IS just me, struggling with my demons and the ever-present siren call of displacement activity.
Window cleaning, anyone?
The joys of the tax return?
Most writers will be able to add loads more to that list of sins. And my resident villain, Old Toothy here, is more than happy to encourage me into discovering a few more. Or he tells me I’m suffering from writer’s block.
The lonely garret problem — solved!
That is why it’s been such a joy, and an inspiration, to be working along with like-minded writers in the last week or so. New doors open. Light beckons. Displacement activity evaporates. We can’t wait to get writing!
And — to be frank — what writer is going to indulge in displacement [ = admiring the view / making yet another cup of coffee / tidying her underwear drawer ♥] when her writer mates are bound to ask about progress on the manuscript?
♥ Insert your own preferred displacement activity if mine don’t appeal. I understand that some writers even resort to ironing. Sad. Very sad.
Writers together: no garret needed
Showing your work-in-progress to someone else, warts and all, is like baring your breast and saying “strike here”. You, the wip author, need guts to do it; and the trusted someone else needs to know how to respond.
Working with a trusted long-term crit partner is one way of writing together, helping each other through the difficult times, but you can’t link up with just any writer. Crit partners have to like each other’s work. Ideally, they should be at fairly similar stages in their writing careers, too, because they’re partners, not teacher and pupil.
A trusted crit partner won’t do a demolition job on your wip but she may gently point out crucial flaws that you are too involved to see. Equally, she may tell you she absolutely loves your story and will you please “just finish it”. Truly inspiring stuff, when it happens like that.
Crit partners can help to deal with the displacement demons, too. If you have regular meetings or phone calls or mutual exchanges of the wip — all of which are really helpful — you may be able to resist the call of the ironing board. You’ll resist because you know that you’ve promised (say) to exchange new pages at the end of the day.
If your crit partner sends you her pages, and you’ve got nothing to show in return, you’ll feel as if you’ve let the partnership down. And, knowing you’re going to feel that way if you don’t write today, what do you do?
Mostly, you write. And to hell with the ironing.
Writing retreats: a classy kind of garret
It was last week’s writing retreat that inspired me to write this blog in the first place. It was a gathering of six authors. Some partners came along for the ride, too. We had a ball. We laughed a lot. And all of us writers, to a woman, wrote like demons. Why? Partly because we had so much respect for our colleagues and didn’t want to let the side down. Partly because the atmosphere was really conducive to being creative (and the shared alcohol helped). And partly, too, because one of our number — who shall remain nameless — is a terrifying clanker of chains when anyone looks like backsliding! Think Marley’s ghost — multiplied many times over.
My Old Toothy was banished. I worked on a manuscript that I’d fallen out of love with and suspected I could never pick up again. Surrounded by encouragement, I found I’d been wrong. On the retreat, I dived back into it and really enjoyed the writing. It will be published soon.
So it doesn’t have to be like this:
It can be like this instead:
relaxed, friendly, encouraged and encouraging — and productive, too!
Mutual Support Network?
And, talking of mutual support for authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the RNA, provides it, in spades. If you write novel-length romantic fiction and you’re not an RNA member, do join.
The RNA will give you ideas, and friendship, and inspiration; and it throws fantabulous parties, where writers can meet loads of editors and agents.
Plus there may even be some alcohol, if you’re that way inclined 😉