Friday, November 1, 2013

You Don’t Have to be Alone

Writing is a hobby that can be very lonely.  To spend time writing words, putting them down on paper or typing them out on the computer is something that takes one person.  No one else can do it with you, unless you’re collaborating on a project.  Can you count the amount of time you spend alone, banging on the keys or scribbling furiously as the muse directs?

Neither can I.

I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school, and I wrote my first novel in high school.  As an introvert, it’s something that felt very natural to me.  I didn’t mind sitting apart from other people as I worked.  Even when I was around others, many times I wasn’t really there with them.  Some of my clearest high school memories were of sitting in a classroom, waiting for class to start and jotting down notes about dialogue as I listened to others talk to one another.  Or I’d completely ignore them as I worked through a plot problem that had been bothering me.

I did the same in college.  I think part of it was that school never seemed like a social event to me.  I was there to study, to learn.  Social interactions may or may not happen, but I rarely initiated them.  When I was in the final years of college, I usually had all my classes – sometimes up to six hours – in the same classroom.  I’d have 10-20 minutes of ‘breaks’ before a new section or class started.  And that’s when I would pull out my notebook and write.  I probably only really met two or three of my classmates, and only if I had to.

Writing was a solitary endeavor for me.  At least, until recently.  I began to branch out.  Very slowly, of course.  Interacting and initiating conversations was something I didn’t enjoy or really know how to do.  But as time went on, I joined writing groups, writing forums, met beta writers, and now, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. 

I didn’t know that much about it.  I knew what it was about, but I hadn’t realized the community that it provided.  Last week, my region had a kickoff, the night where we met to make final plans, meet one another and cheer one another on.  I spent almost three hours there and I loved every minute of it.  That was the first time that I’d ever been in a group like that.  I’ve met other people, yes, but online.  These people were sitting right next to me.  And I was joining in on conversations about things I cared about.  Outlining versus pantsing, character development, Shakespeare, even a little Doctor Who.  There was one thing that connected all of us, and that was our love of writing.  There were people of all ages, all different places in life.  I was especially impressed with one girl who was still in junior high.  I wish I had taken my writing so seriously at her age.

We don’t have to be alone when we write.  Our characters don’t need to be our only companions.  There are so many who are willing to share the journey, to cheer us on.  We just have to be willing to take those first steps, reach out and say hello.