Monday, October 19, 2009

Playing well with others

By Pamela

As Joan mentioned last week, we writers tend to be a solitary bunch. I guess if someone were to do a personality study—and I’m sure someone has—most authors would probably dance across a pretty diaphanous web of traits: enjoy being alone, vivid imagination, tend to have close relationships with few rather than superficial relationships with many, avoid the limelight, prefer a quiet evening at home to a loud party. Sure, some defy the stereotypes and relish the opportunity to share their craft with the masses via talk shows, book tours and such. But I believe they are the exceptions.

I remember watching Today show's Anne Curry interview a successful author about the woman’s best-selling book’s paperback release. The author didn’t make eye contact and barely spoke above a whisper. She was either painfully shy or heavily medicated. I’m voting for the former. I wanted to tap Anne on the shoulder and say, “Just let her go home and write. You’re killing her.”

I tend to have a few close friends and enjoy their company immensely. Put me in front of a large group and ask me to read, and my hands shake and my words squirm out through a voice box constricted with insecurity. It took me several weeks to actually enjoy reading aloud at critique.

This weekend I enjoyed the company of women I see rarely and one I’d never met. None were writers but a few were voracious readers. For me it was an opportunity to talk shop. Not about the craft of assembling a story but what makes good writing. We talked about books we’d read and loved and why they continued to haunt us. (As a bonus, I got to see my very first Kindle! Pretty cool, but I’m not sure I’m ready to forego any hardcover book purchases just yet.)

So, while my some of my closest friends tend to be fellow writers, I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to fellow readers. They seemed genuinely interested in what I write, asked questions I couldn’t always answer (about how a story comes to life—it just does!), and offered hugs of encouragement as we departed. I know it’s vital to my writing to stay inspired, to interact outside my comfortable refuge and to listen to others as they share the stories of their lives. (One woman shared funny tales of her long career in real estate; I'm convinced she could write a book!)

This weekend provided a valuable lesson in the art of stepping out.

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