They say one of the keys to being successful at any creative endeavour is perseverance. Discipline comes in handy too. Yeah yeah, there are also talent and self-belief, but they’re very hard to control…
There is another secret ingredient I’ve come to value very highly over the years — and that’s friends. More specifically, friends who share my creative passions. Kindred Spirits. People who ‘get’ my need to spend hours and hours chained to my second career. People who understand the down days and comprehend just how amazing the good days are.
These days, social media is a fabulous vehicle for forging friendships with like-minded souls. One of the best things I ever did was join up for Kristen Lamb‘s blogging bootcamp, which provided me with an instant (more or less) community of kindred spirits on facebook and twitter. I just know if we lived close enough for coffee . . .
Fortunately for me, however, Melbourne is not devoid of kindred spirits. I’ve managed to find several I can and do meet for coffee — as well as a whole lot more.
I’ve just spent a fabulous four days away with a dozen members of my writers group, SuperNOVA (warning: fledgling web site!). We rented a massive house on a lake, and the aim was to write, write, write. We did get up to some other mischief (which has been summarised here and here*), but mostly the house was silent except for the clacking of keyboards, the scrape of pens, and the screeching of cockatoos out the window.
The general consensus, I believe, was that most participants (I don’t claim all) were more productive than normal. This may have been simply the act of getting away from the distractions of home, but I like to think it was at least partly because of the atmosphere, the camaraderie, of being amongst other writers. There was an almost audible hum of energy in the room . . . OK, I’m possibly being fanciful and cliched, but you get my point!
Over the past few years I’ve been on several weekend writing retreats, some with as few as two of us, others with more. Every time, I get a lot more done than if I take myself off on my own for a weekend — which I do periodically. I think having a kindred spirit present helps with both discipline and perseverance. There’s also the added bonus of having a ready-made sounding board for nutting out tricky plot points, or debating word choice etc, if necessary.
Writing in cafes and pubs
If a weekend retreat is too much, a companionable session in a cafe (or the pub!) can be very effective. I’m currently meeting a few of my writing friends on a weekly basis for a Saturday brunch/afternoon writing session in one of my local cafes. We sit in the back section for up to five hours, ordering occasionally, computers fired up. What I love about this is:
- It forces me to write on a Saturday (or Sunday), when otherwise I might feel compelled to do housework. Or something away from the desk.
- It combines socialising with ‘work’.
- I have ready-made sounding boards for tricky bits.
Last year (when I wasn’t working), a few of us met regularly on Tuesday afternoons in my local pub. And earlier this year, we tried Friday night gatherings for a few months. Those were both awesome habits for the same reasons. It’s very easy to get really busy at work (ahem) and stop writing all together . . . at least if I have a weekly writing session planned, I’m locked in for that time at least.
An epiphany . . .
This post stemmed in part from an epiphany I had on the weekend, as I sat in the corner of the hive, pen in hand, mulling. These were after all my friends I was hanging out with, not just the ‘other writers in my group’. I’m sure I’m not the only writer to despair occasionally, to consider throwing this writing gig out the window and live a ‘normal’ life. (OK, so I was having black thoughts.) But then it struck me that if I did throw it all away, then I’d lose my connection with all these people, these friends, who have become a huge part of my social network. And I don’t want to lose them. I realised that I’m committed, in for the long haul. This life defines me now. There’s no going back . . .
So . . . If you’re a fellow creative, struggling with all these things, how do your friends and networks support you? Have any writers out there ever tried cafe writing — alone or otherwise? Care to come to Melbourne and write with me?
* If you click through to Jason’s blog post, I’m the one sitting in the middle on the dock… and the one carrying the case of wine…