- October 3, 2016
- Roger Johns
One of the most delightful discoveries I’ve made since taking up the writing life is that while writing is a solitary endeavor, it need not be a solitary life. During the last few years, as I’ve traveled the road from aspiring writer to soon-to-be published writer, I’ve spent quite a bit of time at book signings and launch parties, the New York Pitch Fest, several iterations of the Atlanta Writers Conference, a few book festivals, many meetings of writers’ associations such as the Atlanta Writers Club and the Georgia Romance Writers, and many, many meetings with critique groups and critique partners. And, a few weeks ago, I attended my first Bouchercon–a nationwide convention devoted to writers and readers of mysteries and thrillers.
Every one of these events serves a very specific and valuable function, in terms of building a writing career–agents and editors are met, ideas are pitched, one’s skin is thickened to the professional grade of toughness required to survive in the book business, the craft of writing is learned and learned and learned some more, and at some point, if the stars line up just right, all of this going and doing creates a bridge you can cross into the realm of the published author. All of these things are good and necessary and, without a doubt, some of the finest moments one can experience along the trail. But, wait, wait, there’s more . . .
That ‘more’ is the opportunity to make so many wonderful personal connections along the way. One can never have too many real friends and, as I’ve discovered, the writing world is a fruitful place to find them. Everyone in the writing community is struggling toward the same goals, running into the same challenges, suffering the same worries, and riding high on the same joys. Plus, we’re all motivated and captivated by the same obsession–the desire to read and write good stories.
Maybe it’s just me, but of all the hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve met through my involvement in the writing community, the iconic solitary, curmudgeonly writer has rarely been one of them. In fact, as I sit here, writing this, I can’t think of a single one. The open-arms welcome seems to be standard operating procedure.
As one of the big-name writers on the program at Bouchercon explained to an auditorium packed to the walls with readers and writers that success in the writing business is not a zero-sum game–in fact, it’s just the opposite. When the number of good mysteries and thrillers increases, the number of opportunities for people to become readers of such books increases, and the number of readers and fellow authors to connect with grows, as well. Amen, to that. And it was impossible not to notice that the writers who sat together on the panel presentations frequently seemed to be long-time friends with each other. During the book-signings and the meet-and-greet sessions that followed the panels, it was evident that there were a great many writer-reader friendships on display, as well.
So, while for some, the solitary act of writing may lead down that shadowy corridor into a cloistered life, I’ll take a pass on that. Yes, I do like long, uninterrupted stretches of time to get the writing done, but I also like long, uninterrupted stretches of time with the people that make the writing so worthwhile to begin with. And what a great bunch of folks, it is. As if the chance to tell stories for a living weren’t an attractive enough proposition already.
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