Friday, September 18, 2015

Is Writing Solitary?

Is writing really a solitary pursuit?

Well. . . yes and no.

It is. . .

I’m the only one who can write my story. It’s my fingers, and only my fingers, on the keyboard turning thoughts into words. Well, sometimes my cat tries to help. But, yeah, I’m 
alone in that task.

Even if I had the luxury of a transcriptionist, which I don’t, I’d still have to get the words, thoughts and mental images out of my brain and recorded for them.

It is just me.

And although I can write anywhere, it’s easier with no distractions. The best way to ensure that is to be alone with my computer (or paper and pen) – no people around, no TV, ignore the phone, and definitely no internet!

Again, me alone.

BUT. . .

Without the characters talking to me, there would be no story. I may be putting the words down, but it is the characters, telling me their thoughts and their stories. Many writers will talk about making the characters real. That can’t happen unless readers can picture them really saying and doing the things on the page. Readers won’t have an image unless I can create it as I write the story. So as looney as it may sound, I am never really alone in the room as I write. Sometimes it is just the character I’m focusing on there with me. Other times, it’s them and several others, even from completely different stories, all vying for attention.

Stories also wouldn’t exist without everyday people and events around me in life: an old woman at the rodeo wearing a crazy cowboy hat; the solitary person sitting on a park bench; a funny thing that happened at work one day. I never know when one of those is going to pop up and lend some color to a scene.

Then there are the folks who help me, and that list is long. There’s the writing buddy who talked to me for over an hour to help me through a troublesome plot hole. Or the friend who made one simple comment that sparked the writing juices after too long a dry spell. There are the folks who’ve given me critiques, sometimes painful ones, which have helped improve my writing overall. If you have loved ones living with you, count yourself lucky if they help you make the time for writing by keeping distractions at bay. And no list would be complete without the editors, who return work with so much blood dripping from the pages that I sometimes wonder if the words can be saved. Each and every one of these people helps me craft the story; mold it into something worth sharing.

Sometimes my cat tries to help

I also have to mention the people who help get the story to the public. They spread the word once it’s ready to publish. Then there are the readers. Yes, it’s my story, but I do have to keep the readers in mind while writing, because without them it’s just words on a page.

So in a very real sense, I have a crowded house every time I sit down to write. And I can’t write the best story possible, or even a good one, without them.

That makes writing is a joint project.

But in the end, I alone am the one responsible for making it happen.

I can’t blame the writing buddy if the plot hole still exists, nor the characters for not talking to me if I have been too busy to listen to them. If the words never get onto the page, I have only myself to point the finger at.

So, for me, writing is both a solitary venture and a team effort.

How does this fit with your image of a writer and their craft? If you're a writer, where do you fall on the solitary/team spectrum?