Writing is essentially a solitary pursuit. Sure, there are exceptions, like when one works collaboratively on a screenplay, say, or does writing exercises in a group setting. But basically, we write alone, whether we’re secluded in a room or sitting elbow-to-elbow in a crowded Starbuck’s.
We write alone, but not necessarily in isolation. I find it helpful, especially when I’m feeling stuck, dull or uninspired, to recall my many writing benefactors.
By benefactors, I mean the long list of people and influences that have directly or indirectly benefited or supported my writing over the years. And the more I consider these figures, the longer the list becomes: from the grade school teachers who patiently taught me to read and write, the hundreds of authors whose work has fed and inspired me, the accomplished writers I’ve had the good fortune to meet and befriend, the writing mentors who helped to hone my craft, the writing group companions who uphold the value in my writing, to my wife and close editor who continually urges me onwards.
I’m sure you could easily come up with your own personal list of writing benefactors. Maybe just reading this calls some to mind.
As a child, I was enthralled with the touch, feel, and smell of books, and the transformative power and magic of story. But there seemed a disconnect between the published page and the flesh-and-blood writers who had set those words to paper. It was hard for me to imagine that actual people had somehow constructed these literary worlds. Authors held for me the status of mythic, larger than life, beings. It was a transmission of sorts when I first started attending readings and literary events, meeting face-to-face, person-to-person, some of the authors who so profoundly affected me. And then so helpful to work with teachers, who encouraged my own nascent writing efforts, and fellow writers, who empathized with the trials and tribulations of the writing path.
I still find it important to call upon these benefactors, to maintain a connection with their presence, either physically or psychically. I always keep a few favorite books close at hand and snippets of quotes pinned to a bulletin board. I feel blessed to have worked with various writing groups over the years, and especially our current group that has met weekly, for over eleven years now, on a continuous basis.
So yes, we write alone, but we are never truly alone. Don’t forget your benefactors—we can use all the allies we can muster. If you’re willing to make the effort, I’m sure you can easily invoke your own array of benefactors—seen and unseen, ready and reliable—to support and encourage your writing.