by Jenna Kalinsky.
Have you noticed how in the summer life seems to fall off the edge of the world?
And as it should: at least up here in the great white north, for most of the year, we’re shivering in our sweaters by the wood stove, unable to go and do much but read, keep our heads down and drink hot things, counting down the days until the thaw.
Once warmth hits, of course we’re outta here, and while these great new innovations of laptops and phones keep us tethered and working, the summer brand of being productive has a light hearted, gauzy feel, like something we can do as a lark beneath the shade of a leafy gingko clapping in the breeze.
And how divine it is to write with our feet up and a lemonade dripping sweet condensation at our side (or rosé as Lianne Kim at Think Big Sales Consulting smartly advises entrepreneurs to drink while they use these slower months to get ahead in their blogging), but whether we’re on an exotic beach, a Vermont veranda, or at our own trusty desk, a rusty Raymond Carver-style fan churning in its metal cage, all the languid air, lemonade, and interminable Facebook feeds of other people’s holidays in the world don’t change the fact that writing is both job and lifestyle, and taking care of business comes with the territory. Every day, from wherever we are, we’re still putting in the hours, producing the ideas, and thinking, crafting, and creating to make the words happen.
Of course, our peers are likely also off doing their own work from their own chaise lounges or parts unknown, leaving us largely on our own, with only the lonely sweet zum of the cicadas to keep us company (and writing bad poems about them as we should, thank you very much).
That’s where summer presents its inherent trickiness: without our familiars at arm’s length, we’re a bit adrift.
“All good writing comes out of aloneness,” said Sam Shepard, a writer who will be sorely missed, and of course, he was 100% right. Our first drafts must be written alone; there’s no other way around that.
But step two: the sharing, networking, and getting and giving feedback, is integral to every writer’s writing process. Marissa Stapley in her The Globe and Mail article, “The Importance of Literary Community” says, “One of my best days was the day I realized there were people out there who understood me.”
We often see in the movies a writer yanking the last page of his novel out of the printer and packing up the manuscript to send off to the publisher. That yank is sexy and dramatic, but in real life, novels go through innumerable sweaty revisions, largely based on the constructive feedback of trusted fellow writers.
Ask Kathryn Stockett who worked for years on her novel, The Help, in her writing workshops, and with her mentor and editor Alexandra Shelley. “Writing a novel can be a lonely business. Having a first reader who knew when to cheer and when to meddle kept me going through five years and I-don’t-know-how-many drafts of The Help.”
We need to see how our ideas develop in the minds of others and how the song of the lines persuade the ears; the influence and suggestions of our trusted peers further our process and let us know if we’re on the right track, or at least on a track of some kind.
“Knowing you’re not alone, being able to discuss your story in a welcoming environment, and sitting beside people that you don’t have to explain why you write to, all makes you feel part of something bigger,” he says.
“Finding your tribe isn’t just about getting support when you need it,” says Jessica Strawser,
Editorial Director of Writer’s Digest magazine in “5 Reasons Writers Are Essential to Your Writing Life.” “It’s about actively participating in a wonderful community to which you belong, sharing in one another’s successes, reading work that will share the shelf with yours, and making real friends in the process.”
Indeed, it’s like she says, “We’re all in this together. And thank goodness for that.”
The crisp snap of cold keeps us moving at a faster pace and our work lean and purposeful. But summer is a time to gather, regroup, and in the slower days, find a gentility in the work that we may not otherwise make time to see.
It is also a wonderful time to reach out to those who are like us- writers writing alone but benefitting from having an immediate connection with our people. Marissa Sharpley says it: “…communing with other writers has made me a better person.”
Your goal may not be to become a better person (though it may happen beside your best intentions); you may simply wish to have the opportunity to connect with other writers, to be readily welcome in a space where they gather, exchange ideas, and have access to events, resources, and work sharing.
One Lit Place was designed to be exactly this: a private space open to writers of serious intent who benefit from interacting with other writers. It is full of exciting programming, events like our Online Book Club, online courses, information, and conversation.
Pour yourself a glass of rosé, get to work, and when the evening shadows grow long (or it’s time to hear something apart from those damn cicadas), we look forward to connecting with you.