This is a guest blog by Lisa Goll. Lisa is Chair of London Writers’ Cafe, one of London’s biggest creative writing communities with more than 3,200+ members.
Asking writers to network is a bit like an elephant being taught to tango. It’s possible, but does anyone really want to see it? I mean, the awkwardness.
In my line of work (hosting events for writers), I can confirm that they come in all shapes, sizes and creeds but share these distinct qualities: terrifying levels of imagination, the perseverance of professional base-jumpers, killer observational skills and a predilection for solitude that only hermits admire. And most writing events require none of those things. No wonder their invitations find their way so quickly to the bin. But I’m here to say, writers: what are you doing? You’re missing out on the best motivational tool on offer.
Events build your confidence, provide a sense of community, arm you with information and (if you squint) they’re your No.1 weapon in the ongoing battle with procrastination.
Let’s review the unseen benefits more closely:
Believe it or not, reading or hearing another writer’s work reveals how natural you are in your own writing. We all write to our strengths so experiencing another’s writing process first-hand provides perspective, insight, and certainty of your own distinct abilities. True story. Best of all, there’s a thriving community of like-minds out there – you just have to connect with it. Of course, if you don’t rate the work you hear very highly, well, you’ll be boosted by that too. An ugly sentiment perhaps, but that’s human nature – and all writers can appreciate that.
Learning to perfect a skill you do with ease is smart – and likely to yield another confidence boost – but being incredible at one element of fiction but a dirge at all others is not the ideal, so balanced learning is key. I say seek out events that push your writing in whatever way makes you the most uncomfortable. Hate dialogue? Go do a playwriting workshop. Loathe description? Find a poetry event near you. Even if you spend the entire time muttering under your breath, with both feet pointed at the door, your writing will leap forward. Finally: talk to and observe others. Many a fearsome character has been created out of the personalities that frequent writing workshops (and some decent horror films too). You may also find it not so scary when others share their worries about finishing, editing, publishing etc too.
I used believe bouts of procrastination signalled the end of my writing days. I think differently now. To me, great writing is transferring your skill (with words, language, devices, characters), free association, causality and emotional depth, to the page – and you can’t do any of that well if you’re alone too much. Because writers need the world like fire needs matches. Without exposure to art, music, people, life; ideas never spark and the story pit remains cold. Sure, going out can feel like cheating, but not to story events; they’re research and a pyre of motivation. Through them, you’ll be exposed story in all its forms, and if curated by some of the best (Liars League, Literary Death Match, Story Slam etc) your writing will definitely move forward. Hurrah.