Blog No. 64
I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing a story in grade three (it was something about Santa Clause and it was probably really weird) but it wasn’t until probably grade ten that I got the idea to be a writer. That’s still some time ago, but writing isn’t something I have always known I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I got out of high school that I actually decided that writing is something I want to do in my life. I had toyed with the idea, but I wasn’t really committed. My desire has always come out of wanting to tell stories, and writing has become the best way to accomplish that. I suppose if I were living in medieval times I would want to be a jester or minstrel. Though I suppose if I had the choice, some kind of royalty or landowner would be the smarter move.
Way back in 2012 (how odd is it to think that was a while ago) between worrying about the Mayan calendar and trying to ignore gangnam style I was in the early stages of forming a writing group. I have to say that if it weren’t for those humble beginnings I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had a writing session last night and from talking it over with Christian I came to the conclusion that I probably have written more this month that the first six months of last year. That would not have happened if I weren’t in a writing group. I would still probably be wasting my time watching too much TV and talking about writing. Sure it really all comes down to the fact that I put pen to paper and learned how to add writing into my daily life, but the leap to do that work happened from the support I had from the group.
I say support, but some of it comes from pressure and friendly rivalries. For me there is no better motivation than seeing that Christian has finished another story or chapter and I’m still working on page one. When you are in a vacuum it’s really hard to tell if what you are doing is good (or a good amount). Contentment is the enemy of motivation and I’m not content when the group is working twice as hard as I am. Say that, I am always proud of their achievements. It’s two-fold. I am proud when a member of the group gets another story done or reaches their next milestone and the side benefit is my own crushing self-doubt takes a back seat to my desire to be the one in the group who’s the furthest ahead (especially since the rest of the group has really important things going on in their lives such as family and school).
It’s nothing new for me to say that I do better work when I’m out of the house. A lot of people (artists and professionals) have claimed that statement. The rise of the coffee shop is partly due to the phenomenon. I’ve heard it called the third place (between home and work) but for us it’s quickly becoming the place where we get shit done. I’ve done a few solo runs to coffee shops and was fairly successful in the attempts to write, but it’s that much harder (especially in the winter we’ve been having) to bundle up and get myself over to a café and buckle down. While I’ve done it (and will surely do it again) having a person or two along for the ride frequently leads to more productive sessions. Looking up and seeing someone working makes it easier to keep working. I write the way someone dives for pearls. I plunge into the piece and after a page or two I come up for a breath (or sip of coffee). The temptation to stop writing at a breath is strong, but seeing someone with his head down is a firm reminder that the session is far from over.
But so far I’ve stuck on the physical rewards of having a group. A major advantage is the change of perspective. I can come up with a direction I want my writing to go but I’ll never think of everything. Sure there are disagreements and frustrations, but the benefit of having that other perspective and devil’s advocate is worth the few (and for us it’s been very few) squabbles. The perspectives also offer diversity and few advantages outweigh diversity in writing. We all come from different genera’s (or different sensibilities within a genera). My weakest style is horror, but that’s where Christian lives. He challenged me to write a horror story and I gave it a shot. That’s not to say it’s any good, but I tried, and I think my writing is getting better from those kinds of adventures.
Perspectives help in editing too. Being able to get edits on a piece of writing itself it a monumental advantage to working in a group and the more diverse the people in the group, the better the edits. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to improve your writing (or any skill) without edits and critiques. I’ve personally even learned from the editing I do. The entire process keeps writing on my mind and gives me the deadlines and comradely I need to keep working on my writing. We’ve shared struggles and successes, and helped each other write more and write better.
Back in high school (when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life) I despised group work. I would just as soon do it on my own. I didn’t know it then, but I think part of that brash decision came from having a group I didn’t realize I had. Not only did I have a good group of friends who were willing to help me figure out an assignment for a class they weren’t in, but my family was always ready (and happy) to read over my essay (or whatever the assignment was) and critique it. My mother edited every single essay I wrote in university and my dad has read every single one of these posts. I’ve always had a group and now I’ve found a group in Adventure Worlds and I already have a lot to show for it. Like this post for example.
3 thoughts on “The Power of the Group”
Working in a group, especially in the early stages has turned out to be invaluable. There have been so many days that would have been complete write-offs if not for the fact that I’d already committed to meeting up with you and the others at (shout out time), Caffe Mondo. You nailed it on the head with the part about seeing somebody else still writing when you want to take a break causing you to (grudgingly) get back to work.
Also, I got to say, I think the Mayans were on to something with their prediction. There is no way that Gangnam getting like a hundred million views on youtube could be anything but the end of the world as we know it.
Some days I fell like any time I’m not out with you or the others from the group it’s a write off. I’m also more inclined to do work on my own when I know we will be getting together and everyone else will be talking about how much they’ve gotten done.
Pingback: Missing the Sessions – Ben Van Dongen