I spent this past weekend at GenreCon. You can see my previous post for some photos of that fantastic event. As part of his opening speech, con organiser Peter M Ball said the following incredibly true thing:
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WRITERS TALK TO EACH OTHER.
He later blogged with the follow-up half of that truism:
BETTER THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WRITERS HELP EACH OTHER.
I cannot emphasise just how true these things are. You mix with other writers and you learn all you can. You help other writers, with no view to a reward, but you’ll be rewarded anyway with other writers helping you in turn. You will benefit from friendly and open socialising with your peers, whether they’re streets ahead of you in their career or just starting out. But apart from that, the reason to hang out with other writers is because it is just so fucking motivating.
You talk about writing and publishing, you share successes and failures, you learn things you didn’t know before or you’re reminded of things you’d somehow sort of forgotten. You come away from these events with such a burning desire to work harder and be better and chase success that it makes all the struggle and the default position of rejection so much easier to bear. It reminds you why you do what you do. Other than the old truth that we writers simply couldn’t not write, by going to events like GenreCon we’re reminded that there are so many other people out there who share our particular brand of insanity and that’s incredibly empowering.
It’s also important, however, to remember that you need time and space. Creativity is born in boredom. Brains need downtime, when they’re certainly not switched off, but they’re actively resting. It’s a necessary part of being a writer to get out and do nothing. Since GenreCon, which was only a couple of days ago, I’ve written about 5,000 new words, pitched a non-fiction article to a pro venue, polished a short story and sent it to a wonderful beta reader and more. This is alongside running the kung fu academy and having a two year old son. But that’s my normal. It’s great and I love it.
This morning I woke up with a virtual iron spike through my eye, quivering on the verge of a migraine. I don’t get them often, but when I do they’re utterly debilitating. They happen when I’m too stressed/busy and too tired. The busy-ness or the tiredness on their own are no big deal. When the two line up in force, BOOM! It’s migraine time. Usually I can tell it’s coming and head it off. Today I almost couldn’t.
Wednesday mornings are one of my dedicated writing times, before I go out to teach classes through the afternoon and evening. But with the head I had this morning, I knew I needed some self-care. So I took my dog to the beach and walked in the rain. It was beautiful. Then I went into town with him, got a coffee and just sat on a bench under an awning and watched the world go by for an hour.
Now I’m home, recharged, my potential migraine reduced to a dull ache that will continue to fade. I feel refreshed and enlivened. And the best bit? All that stuff I did this morning is still writing. My brain was actively resting, turning over plot and story in my hindmind. Watching people in town gave me insights into characters. Nothing conscious, no note taking, but it all feeds the beast. It refreshes the creative wells. So now I’m back at my desk, writing up this post about it, then I’ll get back to the novel for an hour or two before I have to go to work. I might only add 1,000 new words, where most Wednesdays I might write up to 5,000, but that doesn’t matter. It’s healthy forward progress, it’s sustainable and enjoyable.
So mix with your peers, online all the time and in person when you can. Be inspired, be motivated, but remember to look after yourself too. There’s an old proverb: Fear not moving slowly. Fear only standing still.
Be well and if you make half a page of progress one week, congratulate yourself. Aim to do more next week. If you don’t, so what? Do more the week after. Just keep going and stay healthy. And yes, in some ways this is a thinly veiled NaNoWriMo post, but it’s more than that. It’s about the importance of interaction and isolation, and recognising when you need both. It applies to everything, not just the writing life. It’s about all of life.