Unleashing the Solitary Beast
Last month, I took a break from my solitary writing life (and my day job) to spend a week with ten other fabulously talented fiction writers. I also got to mingle with a few dozen more writers who were working on poetry, life writing and writing for children and young adults. Where did I find this eclectic and inspiring congregation of scribes? The School of Writing at CMU.
For me, the School was the perfect balance of working alone and in collaboration with other writers. I completed the first substantive edit of a story that has been lying dormant for about six months, languishing for lack of time. With the help of our instructor, Margaret Sweatman, and nine other enthusiastic writers, I thought about my story from the outside as well as the inside, clarified the characters and tightened the action. (The story timeline shrank from 10 days to five!)
One of my goals for the last year and a half has been to get a story ready for publication and submit it to journals. After my time at the School of Writing, I feel like I’m only a few steps away from that goal. Now I just have to find the time to take those last few steps…
I also got a great vacation out of the deal. I got to visit the worlds of nine stories-in-the-making and peek inside nine other imaginations. I sometimes find it hard to lay all my cards on the table and reveal the inner workings of a story, but in this case I decided to go all in and I think many of my fellow writers did too. Peeking inside other writers’ tickle trunks, getting to play with their characters and stories was tons of fun – all the exhilaration of invention with none of the drudgery of figuring out how to make it work.
We writers tend to be solitary beasts, hunched over our notebooks or laptops, trying to eke out our next story, poem or essay. I think we sometimes forget that we need companions, readers and editors on the path to a good story. Other writers can be all three – at least, that was my experience at the School of Writing this year.Hilary Friesen