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“This is Going to Sound Strange….”

This is going to sound strange, but writing always leaves me lonely. It pulls me away (mentally and physically) from the people in my life.

That’s because, when I’m writing, I lose myself in that world of conjured lives, surrounded by my imaginary friends. I watch over their shoulders, capture everything they have to say (or everything relevant anyway), and do what I can to hold their hands through the myriad trials of a well-structured plot arc.

They never speak to me, though. They never even look at me. I crash all their parties — and make them spectacularly interesting — but I’ve never yet been invited. And then when I’m done, when I hit my word count or have to surface for some supper, I have to leave all those precious lives behind, too. It’s an awful lot of goodbyes.

And, of course, the real loneliness doesn’t come from the time I spend cut off from people, in one world or the other, but from saying such outlandish things as I’ve just written down. To people who’ve never lost themselves in that process, the very idea of hanging out with the characters in a book I’m writing does often seem quite strange.

Last summer, I found a bit of an answer — not a cure, really, but a support group. As I’ve mentioned before, Courtney and I joined a couple friends to start a writing group.

None of us had ever participated in one before, so we each came to that first meeting a little nervous. We weren’t all terribly close to begin with, either, so we started off by going around and introducing ourselves, tossing in brief descriptions of where we were as writers.

It felt a little forced…for all of twenty second. Without a meeting agenda, without any real plans, we burned through three hours in no time at all. Despite our different ages, different interests, different backgrounds, we immediately found a close kinship — bound together by that one common experience.

There’s a process every writer goes through, over the life of any significant project. Sometimes it’s glorious, and sometimes it’s torture. Whatever it is, it’s always overwhelming.

And without any of us recognizing that process out loud, it became the centerpiece of our conversation. We shared those experiences — deep and powerful and emotional responses — that arose as the direct result of our efforts to Tell Cool Stories.

At some point deep in that conversation, Shawn sat forward, bouncing nervously on the edge of his seat, and said, “Okay, this is going to sound strange–”

And I held up a hand to cut him off. I met the eyes of the others in the group, and said, “By now, we’ve all said that more than once. I think we’ve thoroughly established that we’re all strange here.”

That got nods all around the room, and Shawn grinned back at me. “Fair enough,” he said, and shared a story that every one of us could identify with.

Why You Need a Writing Group

Writing is lonely. It has to be, in some ways, but you can offset that some by sharing your experience with other writers.

And it’s more than just a cure for loneliness. A good writing group can make your writing easier, better, and more marketable. Every writer should be in one.

Need more convincing? Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you exactly what you can get from a writing group.

14 Responses to ““This is Going to Sound Strange….””

  1. Great idea to get writers together. I know I get that loneliness sometimes but I don’t do much about it. Something to think about that is for sure.

    And what a great lead for tomorrow, like a cliffhanger…

    Good stuff as always Aaron.

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Thanks, Justin!

      And I’m right there with ya. I spent years just handling the loneliness and accepting it as part of the process. And, honestly, I didn’t really want to join the writing group when I finally did.

      That’s a large part of the reason I wanted to write this series. There’s no way I could have known how beneficial it really is, or I would have done it much, much sooner. I’d like to save some of my friends that needless delay, if I can.

  2. Gurl says:

    Hmm..interesting. Even though I am not a write of epic books or even mini books, I get this total sense of isolation and no body gets this more and more often. While I am in the zone and writing or planning, all is great. Then I get to a point where I am mildly stuck for ideas or words, and the lonely and misunderstood sets in.

    Seems like maybe it doesn’t matter what type of content you are writing, the lonely happens? Interesting post, made me think and nod a lot…can hardly wait for tomorrow’s post. *wonders off to start considering who she can build a virtual writer’s club with*

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Honestly, Gurl, I think that’s a lot of the appeal of Twitter for writers.

      I know Courtney used to spend a lot of time lamenting how easy it was to get distracted by Facebook and waste time she should have spent writing, but as long as you’re social-networking with the right people (other writers), you are participating in a virtual writer’s club.

      And no, I’m not at all surprised that the feeling extends beyond novelists. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s common to pretty much all creative endeavors, but I think the most powerful answer is to find people pursuing your same process.

      Maybe that means you need to talk specifically with other bloggers, but the overlap between “writers” and “bloggers” is sufficiently huge that it doesn’t really bear much consideration.

      • Gurl says:

        Most of the people I interact with these days ARE bloggers. Take a look at my twitter feed at any given time and it will be more @ replies than anything, unless its been an odd day.

        We tend to chat more about things other than writing/blogging though. Which is often a nice break from being so focused on one thing.

        If the people at CCC don’t want to deal with a forum, maybe one of us could set one up. I’d do it, but got a lot that’s unsettled in my life right now…something to consider, and coordinate so we don’t end up with 200 forums and spread all over 😉

  3. I don’t need convincing. Just suggestions on the best place to find one. I know there are tons online, but sometimes that seems like it wouldn’t be enough. Also, my concern is getting into a group that is too large. Intimacy seems the best way to breed openness.

    • We should start our own CCC based writers group

      • Gurl says:

        I’ve not been participating in that, but its a great concept. I’ve had to be major focused on getting blog posts done for the next few weeks due to some issues that are likely to leave me without internet at home for an indeterminate period. Nothing that won’t get fixed for at least a while, just not sure when we will be able to fix it.

        It would still be great to get some or all of the CCC people into a group or forum where we can commiserate and ask for help.

      • Aaron Pogue says:

        That’s really not a bad idea, Justin. I wonder if we could get Shane to set up a forum over there — or just give us a “discussion” post on every Saturday for us to chit chat about the CCC experience (and the writing we do in general).

        It would do wonders for the community-building aspect of the site (which is already surprisingly strong), and I suspect it would help us all out in the process.

        We’ll have to suggest it to him.

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Becca, I’ll have those suggestions for you on Saturday (sorry to make you wait another day). And if they’re not specific enough, let me know since.

      I had to be pretty general, talking to the world at large, but I know enough of what’s going on in the OKC area that I could probably help you find just the group you need.

  4. Aaron, I can only agree, agree, and agree some more with everything you’ve written–but I’ll save my elucidations for a comment on tomorrow’s article. ;o)

    One thing, though, about how characters don’t talk back to you: Sometimes, they do, if you pick a certain genre. In yesterday’s WILAWriTWe, I mentioned my novel Tomato Electric Destroy Force 9 First Draft: Writer Dearest and the Interlopers. I’m calling this novel’s genre: romantic sci-fi literary metafiction. It’s the metafiction part that let my characters start talking to me directly. Fun was had by all. I highly recommend.

    (You can leave out the romantic sci-fi if you want.) 😉

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      That sounds like a lot of fun, Courtney. Everything about that novel intrigues me, every time you mention.

      I’m definitely going to have to try it out sometime.

  5. Shawn McElroy says:

    I feel that one of the reasons our group has come together well is because of the fact that we dont have an agenda. The freedom allows us to go where we need to go and share ideas that have been swirling around for a while. I completely agree that our group has been very beneficial (also good when you need help painting your house).

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Shawn, that was the easiest housepainting I’ve ever done. I’ll help with that sort of work any time.

      Actually, I think you just fully understand your resources. “A bunch of writers are coming over to help paint the walls. I should do a little prep work. Such as, for instance, going ahead and painting all the walls before they get here….”

      I’m sure you’re right about our writing group, though. And I think that’s what Becca was looking for, too, when she said she wasn’t too interested in a large writing group. Ours is close to the perfect size.