Lonely, struggling writer in garret? Not necessarily

frustrated writer alone in garret

Joanna struggling in her garret?

The poor, lonely writer in her dark and dingy garret, struggling with her words…
Olaf the troll, and garret companionMakes 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.garret tempter Old Toothy

Window cleaning, anyone?
Dishwasher emptying?
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!

open doorway light beyond, escape from garret

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

trust needed between crit partnersRomantic novelists are some of the most supportive people around, in my experience. But sharing your writing requires more than support — it needs trust.

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.

Crit partners

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.

trust, how crit partners help each other up the mountainCrit 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:

successful relaxed writer, no garret neededDiscussing writing for mutual reinforcement

relaxed, friendly, encouraged and encouraging — and productive, too!

glamorous party with alcoholMutual 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 😉

6 thoughts on “Lonely, struggling writer in garret? Not necessarily

  1. Melinda Hammond

    What a lovely encouraging post. I have never used a crit partner, but can vouch for the benefits of support groups such as the RNA and writing retreats. We all need encouragement now and again!

    1. Joanna Post author

      At least one of my books would never have been finished without my crit partner, the blessed Sophie of this parish. But that approach won’t suit everyone, I’m sure. And it does have to be the right partner.

      The RNA is amazing and so supportive. As for retreats… well, I’m still happily writing the book I got back into last week, and mentally thanking everyone who was there. Authors are such lovely folk.

  2. angelabritnell

    Resorting to ironing – never! Another cup of tea, Facebook, Twitter…far better options 🙂

    1. Joanna Post author

      Very much with you on the ironing front, Angela, but have to admit that I do know some authors who resort to it. Some even say it helps!

  3. Elizabeth Bailey

    My procrastination tends to kick in when it’s (argghh!) promo time! I’d rather be writing but it has to be done. But I do think writing retreats are excellent, and there’s nothing like a like-minded group of writers to get your mojo working. Very glad it was successful for you.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you, Liz. Totally understand about promo procrastination. Enough to drive a writer to the ironing board!

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