One of my workshop students, a talented, new in her craft writer, asked the question about writing community and how one finds a community in which to give and receive feedback when one has little means by which to secure it? This question brought me back to a time, not so long ago, when I was right where she is now. I haven’t thought so intently on that feeling of new uncertainty for a good while. Uncertainty, for writers, seems to have many levels of progression. I am everyday certain I’ve discovered a new level of Dante’s Hell and Uncertainty in the Creative Craft. Traversing this very new step in “being the writer” is not so unlike Being John Malkovich. Here is what I could offer:
“It’s not easy. Those of us who have done it (with kids and little money, especially) have suffered in a number of ways due to it. I was born in a trailer park. I came from nothing. My parents spent what nest they were able to build in bankruptcy. I’m still paying off student loans. I had to work and scrape my way through it all, as have many writers. Literary isn’t easy for women, especially. A lot of boy’s clubs and setbacks, if you don’t play that game. But if you want it badly enough and you dedicate yourself to making it [the writing] happen, you can make it happen. It won’t be easy. You’ll get banged up a little. You’ll wish you had more money and time. It won’t be what you thought it was going to be. Sometimes you’ll wonder why you chose to dedicate yourself to such an isolating passion, because make no mistake, the craft of writing, when done well, will be isolating and sometimes painful. Those of us who do it, do it because we truly have no choice. The craft gets into you and you can’t see yourself doing anything else. Anything else will bore you to death and make life even more miserable than being a writer. All this said, I am thankful every day for narrative and stories. I am a more fully developed person and intellect for it. I believe narrative, fiction in particular, is the deepest form of human connectivity. We can have our most important conversations through our characters without beating each other over the head with a soapbox sort of agenda.
So, I guess this is to say, you have a lot on your plate and you are seeking writing community and are limited, as you describe, in how you can achieve it. Before going down this rabbit hole any further, see this thing called writing for what it is. Truly, you do have narrative voice that is worth dedicating yourself to and exploring further. And there is something to be said about pieces of writing that can’t be taught but must be found by each individual writer and you are already on this path. But decide whether it is the right path with both eyes open. Too many writers start with a doe-eyed view of what the ‘writer’s life’ is. And it is never that.”
These words poured out of me so easily and with such cynicism. I never thought it possible, this cynicism. Wouldn’t it be interesting? A CT scan at the first moment when a writer identifies as being a writer and then years later the moment when a writer realizes how truly screwed he or she is. I would like to see these films on the light screen. And we’ve done this to ourselves. Whistling into our rabbit holes. What a lovely and dominating mistress. I did give the requisite advice on getting involved and seeking trusted writing groups and to always be grateful of any willing mentor to happen along. And all the while, I’m thinking, what a lovely and dominating mistress.