I’d almost insisted (I can be stubborn!) that writing should be a lonely job – a-starving-artist-in-the-garret kind of job. Yes, I’d joined Romance Writers of NZ a number of years ago and enjoyed regular meetings of our local chapter. I’d attended two or three writing retreats with a few writing pals, but the act of writing I saw as being something I needed to do alone.
Well, thanks to some awesome happenings this year, I’ve had a bit of a turnaround! First up, was a writing retreat in the country where a fellow author was housesitting. Seven of us gathered over a period of two or three days, some staying for shorter or longer periods depending on those pesky other commitments that are integral to our writing lives. Ranging in age from 30s to 70s the individuals in our group made an interesting mixture – a zoologist researching animal behaviour, an investigator with an extensive background in high-level police work, a Bowen therapist-in-training, a tertiary teacher, a retired primary school teacher, a couple of administrators – but we had all also worked in other fields throughout our lives. One of us had owned an antique shop, one had founded and operated a niche magazine, one had farmed a beef and cattle station deep in the heartland of New Zealand, one was elite in martial arts. We had rural and/or urban backgrounds; we were divorced, married, single, partnered with-or-without children, traveled extensively or stayed close to home. What a wealth of experience we had to share! And a magnificent dining table to share conversations over the meals to which we all contributed. And the conversations? Mostly about writing – so many aspects of writing! We weren’t all writing novels and we weren’t all working within the same genre. Goal-setting, planning, social media, websites, and job applications were all thrown into the mix and if we wanted to share, or needed advice or information, it was on tap for everyone. If you wanted to find a comfy chair in a corner and read all day, that was fine too.
Then I decided, almost on impulse (which is unusual for me) to sign up for the SPA Girls self-publishing workshop. I was so impressed by what Cheryl Phipps, Shar Barratt, Trudi Jaye, and Wendy Vella had achieved by pooling their skills and experience, sharing their ups and downs, inspiring each other, learning, and growing their writing careers as individuals within a collaborative group. As well as the workshop itself, I traveled with two other writers and the conversations we had along the way, the characterization exercise we worked on back at the motel, and the companionship and laughter we shared were uplifting. Plus, dinner at the nearby Thai restaurant was exceptionally delicious!
More recently I’ve had fun working with a couple of authors who also write Regency Romance. Jen Yates (you really must read her raunchy Regencies – Jen YatesNZ) came to stay with me for a couple of days and we talked cover design, which is something I’ve become interested in now that I’ve decided to mostly self-publish. This weekend we were joined by Caroline Bagshaw whose upcoming Regencies are set in Scotland, Caroline’s country of origin.
Yes, the act writing itself – fingers on keyboard, pen in hand, or voice-recording – are activities that probably need to be done alone, but sharing ideas, brainstorming or asking questions of someone who truly understands why you want to know this peculiar kind-of-weird detail is truly rewarding.
The companionship of other writers, fresh perspectives and new ideas not only helps me grow as a writer but enriches my life in ways that are immeasurable. Pricking the little bubble of my solitary writing world has set me free.