Today we have a special treat for you; a guest post by rising lit star Rob White! I love Rob’s ‘The Pull’ series and he is a passionate contributor to the Athens Writers Association. Enjoy!
When I started writing back in 1994 I did so in my parents’ basement. I was a solitary kid despite having two siblings. I didn’t have very many friends so much of my time was spent alone and my friends became the imaginary characters pulled from my subconscious and the pool of untapped and unfulfilled desire. I wished I had a big sister, so I wrote about having one. I wished I had a dog, so I wrote about that too. I wished I had a giant metal monster stalking me through downtown Atlanta…okay, maybe that wasn’t something I wanted, but I wrote about it anyway.
What followed those initial days of solitude and a creative bubble that was mine alone were many years of writing behind closed doors, in quiet libraries and behind the backs of those I love; rarely even talking about my writing, much less sharing it. It wasn’t until I was asked into a writing group by this very blogger I’m guesting for, Miss Katherine Cerulean, that I discovered what I had been missing all of those years.
As writers, perhaps as creative types in general, most of us are naturally introverts. We crave companionship like any other human being but we also crave alone time and often feel most like “us” when there’s no one around. That’s all well and good, and alone time is important for everyone, but we can’t let it get in the way of our growth either. We’re human. Humans are social creatures. We need interaction with others to meet our full potential.
So what does that mean for little old you? Well I’ll tell you what it has meant for little old me. I entered that first Writers Association meeting a little bit anxious and even a little bit protective of my work. I had avoided critique groups for years because I didn’t want to be discouraged by what others thought of me. This time was a little different because I had just independently published a novel and had a bit of practical experience under my belt, but I was still just as prepared as ever to have my work and, by extension, myself picked apart.
As everyone drifted in and took up positions around the table, that anxious side of me kept trying to see hungry faces looking for easy prey to make them feel superior. Instead what I saw were a panoply of eager faces; eager not to pick me apart, but to share. In the eyes of the shy young man and the uncertain middle-age woman alike I saw the same kind of caution and the same kind of anxiety I carried. None were sure what to expect and all were debating whether sharing their work in public would make them feel better or worse.
What happened as Katherine made introductions and expressed the purpose of the group was like magic. People started opening up. I started opening up. I felt more comfortable speaking about myself and – more importantly – my work as others spoke about theirs. Soon I was not only comfortable, but confident. These weren’t enemies to my precious introverted creative life; these were allies. These were comrades in arms.
Advice, reassurance and wisdom bounced between us as freely as ideas and literary passions flowed from our voices and laughter filled the room as we all realized our common bonds. We all had experience to share. Each of us carried a piece of a puzzle that could inform the others. My experience helped someone else whose experience helped me in kind. Around that coffee shop table, we all met in the middle.
Seeing how this group has helped all kinds of writers, from those merely forming ideas for novels in their head to those who have been pushing out work for twenty years or more; all of us gained strength from our unity of purpose. I now believe there’s not a single creative soul of any kind that couldn’t benefit from sitting around a table from others and either sharing or listening; even the introverts; especially the introverts.
So my advice to writers young and old, experienced authors and fresh upstarts is to get out there and find a group of wordsmiths just like you. If such a group does not exist, create one! In the age of the internet, it’s easier than ever to bring people together. Use the talents you have to call out to the seekers out there and form connections that can push each and every one of us to higher levels of kinship and inspiration.
Rob White is a novelist, comic book author and professional dreamer. Rob makes his home in Athens, Georgia where he revels in the chaos and magic of living in a town full of artists and collaborates with other mad and beautiful souls as frequently as possible.
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