I read an article in the Guardian this morning about the lonely life of a writer. Or, more importantly, why the life of the writer doesn’t have to be lonely, or miserable. Last year, when I was hard at work on Mesabi Pioneers, I discovered the truth to that statement.
In my early years as a writer I fought loneliness. I locked myself in a room to put words on paper. I refused to share my words with anyone until they were as perfect as I could make them. I wrote draft after draft, rarely satisfied with myself, with the end product. After a time the words began to seem foreign to me, as though the letters themselves were not in my language. Only then, when I was exhausted by the sight of my own work, would I begin the delicate process of sharing my words with others. Even then I believed the words weren’t perfect enough. None of my words were good enough.
Then, with Pioneers, something changed. Early drafts made it into the hands of a few fellow writers, of trusted friends, of family. I listened to their feedback not for validation but for criticism. To find out from readers and writers alike what worked, what didn’t. To make the writing better. To make the book the best it could be. I was open, for the first time, to actually hearing what others had to say about my unfinished drafts. That early help made Pioneers a better novel.
The support I received through a Kickstarter campaign helped, too, to remind me that this writing life is not the lonely life I always thought it was. That though I might be by myself in a quiet room putting words on (virtual) paper, I was not alone.
As I begin the work of editing the second novel I have to remind myself that writing is not a lonely job. That I do not have to be alone in my quiet room, standing at my quiet desk, with only a cat for company. I am part of a larger community of writers and editors and publishers and agents and, yes, readers, all of whom want to tell and read great stories. My job is not to agonize over every word–though that is part of it–but to tell a story that yearns to be told, in a way that compell readers to enjoy.
“The writer should observe, listen, look…and then write. Nothing begets better writing than the simple process of writing.” -Rod Serling