Thursday, May 17, 2012

Survival by Association

To remain healthy as individuals, achieving balance in our lives is essential.  As writers, it's easy to become so immersed in our craft, we don't even know what day it is.  Our last meal could linger forgotten on the kitchen counter because our main just did something unexpected in our minds, and if we don't get it out, it's gone.  We'll forget to do the laundry, to feed the bird, or to call our mothers every week so they know we haven't thrown ourselves off a bridge.  The only thing we almost never forget is to purchase coffee.  Never.  Okay, almost never.  Regardless, to keep ourselves lively and mentally stimulated, we need human contact to shake things up from time to time.

In order to balance the inevitable solitude and mind-numbing minutia that the writing vocation demands, I strongly suggest that writers seek out other writers to play with, and include them in their established social circles.  It's not that challenging an effort, really.  After all, we do have an innate tendency to recognize and gravitate toward each other in a crowd.  If crowds aren't your thing, there are myriad resources available to assist with arranging writerly meetups and play dates.  Online groups and social media are also available for the quintessentially detached who fear they will commit a breach of the literary code to actually, you know, venture out into the light of day on occasion.

Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula

My friend and fellow writer, Christian Klaver, is one of those freakishly dedicated writers who funnels every available moment of the day into his craft - while working another full-time job.  Every. Single. Day.  He also maintains a family and a social life.  I did mention the word freak, yes?  I seriously admire this guy.  Aside from being a talented voice in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror genres, Christian is also a very good friend...and a great influence that keeps me both on track and enthusiastic about my work.  He's that rare someone I can spend countless hours with, both debating and agreeing on a variety of literary topics, including more than one lengthy exchange on the merits (or lack thereof, according to Christian) of semicolon use.  Yes, we are unapologetic geeks.  And we've found each other.  Joy is a good word to insert here.

If you are fortunate enough to have a friend like this, hang onto him or her. Such a friend will escort you safely through the throes of writer's block, the wide-eyed panic of your first book-signing, and the most gut-wrenching breakup imaginable.  Keenly aware that experience is the greatest teacher, they will advise you against - but not necessarily prevent you from - walking straight off any craggy relationship cliff.  Even if it is the second time you walked off this particular one.  However, they will stand at the bottom and wait for you to land.  When you do, they'll help you brush yourself off, tossing out affectionate pearls like, "You done yet?  I mean, no judgement if you aren't, but done yet?"  Then they'll take you off and buy you a drink.  And talk shop with you for hours to keep your mind off the bozo who broke your heart.  They won't even chide you for slipping in a few wandering laments about said bozo and why you were stupid enough to try it with him (or her) a second time.  But don't get too crazy, because they're perfectly comfortable calling you on it.  It's what friends are for.

I imagine this is true for other vocations, but if you're a writer, other writers get you.  They get that when something interests you, no barrier is strong enough to prevent you from satisfying your obsessive curiosity.  They know that once sated, you'll write about it.  They get that when your muse kneels on your chest at three a.m. and thunks you on the noggin, you have no choice but to comply.  They also get that when they don't hear from you for weeks or even months, you're most likely engaged in the act of writing something epic.  Either that, or you're wrestling around with another potential bozo who may or may not break your heart.  If that's the case, they know you'll write about that, too.

I could be way off base here, but, while I am passionate about having other writers as friends, I'm not completely sold on the idea of co-habitating with one.  Friends with benefits or lovers; no problem.  But actually marrying one is, I imagine, probably not the best idea in the hat.  Now, selecting another creative type for a mate is likely a good idea; you'll understand each others quirky natures enough to relax into it and enjoy the ride.  Two writers might just prove to be too much of a good thing, however.  Writers need contrast to stimulate the creative edge that is essential for us to foster.  There's also that whole competitive factor that can challenge even the most devoted couple.  I know there are exceptions, such as Stephen and Tabitha King, but I stand on my earlier opinion until I prove myself wrong.

So, if you're a writer, write your fool head off.  Live, breathe and eat your craft with a spoon.  Obsess over plot holes, story arcs and character sketches.  Piss off your eighth grade math teacher by making him the grisly villain in your latest story - that is serious fun, by the way.  But through it all, get yourself some compatriots to bounce off of once in awhile.  You'll thank me later.

'Til next time, Ciao.


  1. Carole, if you ever find you need a cup of coffee while you are knee deep in creation process, just let me know and I will call on "Jimmy Johns" to handle the situation

  2. Bettie, you're an angel, darlin'

  3. Your advice for collecting a handful of dependable writing compatriots strikes home for me. As a writer in a technical field, I'm constantly feeling like I just don't have anyone I can really connect with. I've got a writing group project in the works now, though. Hopefully this will be a good way to start networking and finding those rare gems to hold onto.

    Thank you for your insights!

    1. Hi there, R. Brady!

      Thank you for your acknowledgment. I feel truly blessed that I have a circle of writer friends, as well as others that I network with. I'm so glad to hear that you found my advice helpful. The writing group is a great way to start, and can be absolutely essential for those times when you've hit a snag in your story, or to point out those sneaky little plot holes that tend to linger about from time to time.

      Keep me posted on how you're doing, okay? We're all in this together.