Writing – any kind of writing – can be a lonely old process. Sometimes, the solitary nature of the work is part of the appeal. It’s no coincidence that a majority of writers are self-confessed introverts. A job where I don’t have to spend eight hours a day around people? Sign me up!
But introverted doesn’t mean antisocial, and sometimes, a long stretch of writing makes you feel less like a happy hermit and more like you’ve been cast out into the void, there to wander for all eternity. So, you need a network of people to anchor you to reality.
And not just any people. You need people who, when you complain about how your characters are misbehaving, or that you know what has to happen and how it has to happen but you just can’t make it happen, don’t laugh nervously and scan the room for the nearest exit. You need other writers.
I am very fortunate to be part of The Golden Egg Academy, an editorial service that offers professional critiques, workshops that have breathed life back into my poor dying work in progress more than once, and, just as importantly, an unofficial support group for people negotiating the weird and confusing world of novel-writing. Through the GEA, I’ve met people who know exactly what I mean when I come on Twitter to wail about how I really want to dive back into the writing but it’s scary – and who always have an encouraging word, or a “Yep, been there.”
This online connection is a wonderfully comforting safety net, or cushion, or something like that (cut me some slack, I’m currently deep in the “too scared to write” phase), but sometimes you need to get away from the desk and maybe even have an adventure. And that’s where the socials come in.
Last Saturday, we met up in London for a social that covered pretty much all of my favourite things – food, wine, wandering around, scribbling ideas in a notebook, and more food. After kicking off with one of the most delicious pub lunches I’ve ever had (Melton Mowbray, your name may invoke pies, but you do a damn good mushroom ravioli), we went on a ‘scrawl crawl’ where we walked to the Museum of London, St Paul’s, and the Tate Modern, stopping at each of them for a few minutes’ scribbling. (Most of my scribbles were stream-of-consciousness about not knowing what to write, but hey, can’t win ’em all). And then we finished up with cake, because everything has to finish with cake. This is the law.
There’s a unique and wonderful feeling you get when you spend time around people who are on your wavelength. Being a fairly shy and awkward person, meeting new people can often feel like some kind of Herculean test of courage – but Golden Egg events have always been as relaxed and effortless as hanging out with friends I’ve known for years. (Disclaimer: My lack of awkwardness may not necessarily show up in photos).
Photo by Emma Greenwood, featuring James Nicol, Vashti Hardy, KL Kettle, and a strange bespectacled woman
To be a writer, you need ideas, focus, passion, and what a good friend of mine calls TITS (Time In The Study, of course, what else would it mean?) You need that time alone, to give your story the attention it deserves. But you also need other writers, for those times when you’re so deep in the story that nothing makes sense any more, or when you’re so detached that writing seems as impossible as flying – or when you just fancy a chat with another person who knows what it’s like to live with a head full of fictional people getting up to mischief.
Alice’s books are available on Amazon and Smashwords. Her webcomics, co-created and illustrated by Emily Brady, can be found at the Footloose website. Ally rambles about writing, feminism, and odd questions that cross her mind on Twitter and Facebook.