The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer
Three of my favorite activities are running, reading, and writing. Besides being alliterative, those activities have another thing in common—they’re all solitary endeavors. And while exercising and spending time with a book can be great solo ventures, the same isn’t necessarily true for writing. Unless you’re writing professionally, most of the time you need to be creative about when you fit in your keyboard time; before work, after dinner, in those few precious moments when a child is napping. These times are chosen precisely because they allow for solitude and quiet. Yet, I’m going to make the case for adding community to your writing routine and here’s why:
I love walking into places bustling with activity. There is something about the energy that thrives in those environments that is contagious. This is why so many writers flock to coffee shops and shared workspaces. It’s true that those places aren’t for everyone and can get pricey after a while, so it helps to explore other options. Libraries are a great place to work, as are larger bookstores (and you’re surrounded on all sides by inspiration!).
Back in school there was no question you were going to turn in that big term paper that was worth 50% of your grade. You had a hard deadline and you didn’t give yourself a choice in meeting it. When you’re writing for yourself it’s easy to get off track with your progress because you don’t have any accountability for your work. Having a community of writers who know your goals and (kindly) remind you of them will help keep you focused and motivated.
No one wants to complete a three-hundred-page novel then get the note that your main character needs more of an arc starting back at page twenty-five. This is the kind of thing that happens if you aren’t getting feedback as you go along. Getting other sets of eyes on your work will lead you to a much cleaner first draft. Also, I’ve found that there is value in both getting and giving feedback. If you are reading another’s work critically, you tend to look at your own in that way too. It’s a great way to hone your craft.
Embracing the social side!
Writing is tough. There are days when the words just seem to fly out of your fingertips, and days when you want to toss your laptop out a window. Having a network of writer friends to commiserate with is essential. Whether this a group that meets weekly at a coffee shop or a forum you check in with online when you need it, having people who understand what you’re doing and have been there themselves helps you rejoice in the victories and power through the bumps in the road.
I know that this isn’t practical for everyone. Life is busy and there are many demands on your time. However, even if you can carve out a little time each week to connect with other writers, you’d be amazed at the benefits you’ll see. Check out sites like Meetup or the bulletin boards at your local library and coffee shops to find groups of writers in your area. Your book will thank you for it!
About Katie McElhenney
Katie McElhenney was born in Philadelphia into a big family of curious kids and patient adults. A voracious reader and unapologetic daydreamer, she knew she wanted to become a writer someday. With the support of an amazing family, great friends, and some truly spectacular teachers she has written short stories, poems, and novels. A solar-powered human, she now lives in Los Angeles and uses the great weather for year-round trips to the beach and long runs (where the best inspiration happens).
Find out more about her at katiemcelhenney.com
The Things They’ve Taken
All Lo Campbell wants is to be a normal teenager—to go to one high school, live in one place, and have one real friend. Instead, she travels the country with her mother, chasing the unknown, the “what else” that’s out there…
Until one day, the “what else” chases back.
Determined to rescue her mom from whatever supernatural being took her, Lo will need more help than a badly dressed demon obsessed with country music. She’s going to need a Tracker—and lucky for her, she finds one. Shaw is strong, good-looking, possibly available, and utterly infuriating. Sure, he may have secrets, and his help costs more than a brand-new car, but she’ll have to deal with him if she wants to find her mother—and get her home alive.