Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing in a bubble makes your hands sticky

I have a love/hate relationship with writers’ groups.

You could broaden that to say I have a love/hate relationship with any in-person human interaction that doesn’t involve naked groping. If more writers’ groups had orgies on their agendas, I’d attend every meeting.

I’m an introvert by nature, so I tend to avoid human interaction like porn stars avoid expired condoms. I wrote romance for many years before my agent commanded me lovingly advised me to join RomanceWriters of America (RWA). There may have been some kicking and screaming involved, and not the fun kind.

As it turned out, I was wrong in my assumption that in-person interaction with other writers would be a painful endeavor. I enjoy the camaraderie and knowledge I gain from the monthly gatherings, and I learn something new at each meeting. Sometimes it’s writing techniques or social media strategies, and other times it’s the latest industry gossip. My little brain soaks it up like a sponge (and not the kind you take your pants off to use).

Unfortunately, a large mountain range separates my city of residence from my closest RWA chapter. Making the seven-hour round-trip journey is tiring in summer months, but downright treacherous in winter months when ice turns the roads into cliffside ice skating rinks.

I haven’t made the trip for months, and could feel myself slinking slowly into my introvert cave and gathering large boulders to block the entrance. When an RWA chapter-mate contacted me last week to say her family was vacationing on my side of the mountains and asked if I’d like to get coffee, I had a mixed reaction. I adore this particular author and love both her industry knowledge and her risqué wit.

But did I really want to change out of my pajamas and leave the house?

I decided I did. When I left three hours later, I slammed my head in the car door repeatedly and asked myself, “why the hell don’t you do that more often?”

There’s something about chatting with other authors that rekindles my passion for writing. Even brief conversations leave me quivering with new knowledge and ideas that empower me for my own career.

While it’s true I interact with other writers in online communities and I adore those relationships like a stripper loves nipple tassels that don't chafe, they're not the same thing.

Let’s face it—most authors (myself included) sugarcoat what they post online about publishing decisions, industry interactions, and dollar figures. Authors who don’t want to burn bridges won’t post on Twitter to lament the challenges of working with a particular editor. You won't see many writers taking to Facebook to detail their sales numbers and royalty figures.

But when you meet in person, people are less censored. And when that happens, you get a genuine sharing of knowledge and information that doesn’t happen in online writer communities.

You also get a different sort of camaraderie than you see online. The butt-pats are real instead of virtual, and that right there is worth changing out of your pajamas.

Do you participate in online groups or in-person meetings for your chosen profession (writing or otherwise)? What sort of interaction do you prefer? Please share.

And let me know if you hear of any of those writers’ groups that get naked and grope each other. I’m asking for a friend.


Patty Blount said...

Chapter #160 of the RWA here on Long Island is my sanity check, my sounding board, my mentor, and my friends all rolled into one organization.

Through my chapter affiliation, I was able to beta-test SEND with the most incredible group of teens ever assembled. I'm still in touch with many of them today.

I can get a critique with one email. That's the kind of assistance this group is always ready to offer. I attend as many meetings as I can (damn head cold made me miss the annual holiday event).

I admit the in-person critiques terrified me at first, but now I love them.

Raley Blue said...

RWA is three hours away, but one of my writer friends from the local writers group at the Library has strongly suggested I do it anyway. I'm glad you and Patty concur.

Total introvert. Hate groups. Kinda hate the Library group... But I loves the peoples. They are good hearted souls.

Mary said...

There is not a strong writing community in my neck of the woods and a 3-hour trip to the nearest RWA or any other type of chapter just isn't in the cards at the moment. Plus, none of my friends are writers of any kind. Probably a good thing that I'm an introvert and prefer my fortress of solitude.

But, you're right. Real life interactions with smart people who really *get* what you're doing are so fantastic (once I kick off my yoga pants and actually put on a bra). But they're also exhausting. Very worth it. Unfortunately, I know of no nekkid writing groups...very little groping...sad.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I've heard a lot of positive things about RWA, and I think it would be fascinating to participate in any of the discussions that people have there. I've never joined a writer's group, but I've thought about joining one in the future. I have taken several one-night writing classes, partly because I want to learn more about writing but also because I like talking to other writers. You're right in that talking about writing face to face has a different dynamic.

Julie Glover said...

I've been combing the area for a good local writers' group. My time is limited with the schoolwork and activities of two kids.

However, I have a good writer friend about an hour's drive away, and she has been fabulous. I also love getting to chat "uncensored" at conferences with fellow writers. I learn as much from those interactions as I do from the workshops.

miaohdeux said...

It's funny how you call yourself an introvert - I am an introvert as well, but I think of you as very bubbly and chatty because of your writing. Not that introverts can't be bubbly and chatty. Forgive me - I'm not making sense, which means I need more caffeine.

Anyway, I was in a writing group for a couple of years (most of us met in a class and then we added some people). None of us were published but it was nice to meet, workshop and kvetch. Also, several of these people were excellent cooks and bakers. :)

I'm now in a yearlong novel writing workshop that meets monthly. It's more serious - some people ARE published, others like me are working on it - but there is still kvetching and baked goods. And it's nice to get out of my head every once in a while.