The Strength of a Writer's Village

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Speaking to a friend the other day, we laughed at our unlikely friendship. We are compatible, but we tend to speak about work a lot. We're both writers, but in separate areas of the field. We both have clients, so we exchange tips about chasing down a check or how to write a proposal. But one area where we diverge is that I'm always hoping to shift my client base that of loyal readers. Book readers of my fiction. It's something she politely listens to, but she has no interest in becoming a fiction writer and so those discussions tend to be more one-sided.

The more I return fiction writing into my daily ritual, the more find myself seeking like-minded people with whom I can have the fiction-based two-sided conversations. I had reveled in it as an MFA student and I am now fortunate to know some talented and published writers. I can seek them out and speak to them about fiction and agents and the business of publishing. But many of them have become successful in their writing careers and don't need to cobble together other jobs. Often when I try to explain the article writing-blogging-editing-coaching-copywriting existence I have, the conversations tend to peter out.

I used to take the one-sided conversations a little personally (as in: it's me and I need to work on my conversational skills). Then, when I had lunch the other day with a former newspaper colleague I came to a third understanding.

I'm still collecting my village (or support network, if you prefer) of friends that I can speak to about well as writing as a business. A couple days after the lunch, that friend spoke to me about a couple items we had talked about. We crossed over both areas--fiction and business writing. It has made a world of difference to make the connection.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying any of my friends are not as good a friend because they have one focus over another. I can enjoy each friend for strengths, but I know that sometimes I need the friend who understands fighting the pull of my novel's narrative when I have a 50-page corporate project due. And for the first and second groups of friends, I don't have to feel I have to work on my conversational skills. I can concentrate on the areas we can share, without feeling I've led them down a one-way street.

In your writing career, have you found a village of friends you can discuss your work with? How did it make you feel? Or do you find writing is entirely a solitary endeavor? Or that the writing village exists online now--without a need for in-person interaction? If you haven't found your writer's village, do you think it is important to do so?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a North Carolina-based writer-blogger-editor-coach-copywriter.


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