Picture the solitary writer, scribbling alone in a dismal garret. Shivering in a threadbare sweater and fingerless gloves, the writer persists despite poverty, heartbreak, and isolation from humanity, until completing the great work that will lift the writer from obscurity.
I don’t know about you, but that life doesn’t sound very attractive to me! I’d much rather do my writing with the support and companionship of others. The exact moments I press my fingers to the keyboard might be spent alone. But creating those moments is a heck of a lot easier when they are surrounded by other moments when I interact with my fellow writers and our support systems.
Cary Tennis, the author of Finishing School: The Happy Ending to that Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done, agrees:
“Why should you believe that you can write without any external stimulus? If you need to meet with a writers group, enroll in a class, arrange with a mentor or writing friend to share work on agreed-upon deadlines, or if you need to work out a schedule of deadlines with your editor or agent, then please do so… The idea that a writer works only from inner inspiration is, I think, a bit of a romantic myth, rooted in the idea of writer as solitary and mysterious hero. The writer may be that, but he is also a person in a web of community, and he is also fallible. He may be lazy and unable to meet deadlines; he may be, as I am, fearful of completion. So there is nothing wrong with building into your life some structures that compensate for your weaknesses. We are not supermen. We all need a little help.”
This is why I started attending Shut Up & Write sessions in 2012, and why I continue to attend and organize these sessions today. It’s why I host a monthly Get It Written Day on Zoom. It’s also why I participate in writing classes (yes, even though I teach writing skills myself) with institutions like Blue Stoop, Lit Camp, and the San Miguel Writers’ Conference.
Whatever might help you get your writing projects completed is what belongs in your real-life picture. Let suffering, solitary writers remain in the world of fairy tales, where they belong.