“Writers, perhaps, stand in special need of collegial associations. Their work, drawing on private depths of knowledge and feeling, is necessarily conducted in isolation and silence….”
This comment by John Updike really struck a chord in me. And for some strange reason, as I read it, a line sprang to mind from Andrew Marvell’s marvelous poem, To His Coy Mistress: “The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace.” The page, too, is a fine and private place – but we enter and leave it alone, with only the characters we create and the ideas we express to keep us company.
Sometimes when our work is completed, there’s a performance aspect to it: we do readings or our play is staged or our screenplay is filmed. But in its formative stages, our work is solitary – just as it often is for painters or musicians. While the private world we inhabit is often wonderfully appealing, it can become a bit too isolating and self-referential. Have you found that?
One way to offset this is to stay connected, not just with other writers, but with people in other circles of your life who can bring a fresh enthusiasm to your work. Though spending too much time and energy talking instead of writing can be a pitfall, a spontaneous reaction from a non-writer friend about an idea or project can give you a jolt of electricity that can really propel you forward.
My friend Lynne lives a few houses down the street from me; a former teacher, she homeschools her four children. A book club member, she’s a lover of words and reading. I can remember drinking a glass of wine with her one evening a few years ago and describing to her how a character just came to me and how I’d filled an entire notebook with the beginning of her tale. Lynne’s excitement about my idea and the whole creative process was so contagious, it pushed me to pull out my notebook and get started on my story. What a gift!