Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Little Help From Our Friends

By Sue Ann Jaffarian

For the most part, writing is a solitary venture. But this past week I was reminded how important it is for writers to bond with one another. I’m not talking about career networking or about having drinks with writers you only see at conferences. (Although that can be a hell of a lot of fun.) I’m talking about real bonding, becoming friends and mentors. Writers sharing quality time one-on-one with other writers, discussing dreams, hopes, and problems, and brainstorming together to get over the humps and bumps of the frustrating business of writing.

In the past week, I had dinner with three fellow mystery authors. Last Tuesday, it was promotional brainstorming with Morgan Hunt. Friday, Tim Maleeny and I swapped goals of writing full-time and plotted some joint marketing ideas. And this past Sunday, I spent a couple of hours over a chicken pot pie with short story author Kate Thornton, who is finally sitting down to write her novel. I came away from each dinner high on writing and filled with new ideas and a fresh outlook on some old ones, and I hope they did, too. And, then, there’s the laughter. When writers get together, there is always laughter.

We all have friends and family who lend us support in time of emotional need, but unless they are also writers, they cannot really understand our passion when hashing out plot glitches or publicity frustrations. I’ve seen the eyes of many a friend glaze over and can almost hear them say: “There she goes again.” Neither do they fully understand what drives us to sit hour after hour alone pounding a keyboard. And seldom do they appreciate the “other world” that exists and flourishes inside our heads without wondering if we should seek professional help. After all, isn’t what we do a bit psychotic? But in a nice way, of course.

But another writer, that’s a different story. Another writer understands when we discuss poisons and dismemberment, kidnapping and blood spatter patterns. Another writer understands when we curse the evil and chaotic business of publishing, yet cling to the desire to be a part of it. Another writer understands our particular type of psychosis, because they suffer from the same affliction.

So in the next week or so, make sure you get together at least once with another writer, even if it means taking time away from your writing. Think of it as psychotherapy for the price of a meal … and it’s a lot more fun.


Nina Wright said...

Wonderful post, Sue Ann. With the ideal graphic. ;<)

When I lived in Tampa Bay, I was blessed to find the perfect quartet of fellow novelists. We got together once a week. Since moving north, I have missed them like lovers. Thank God for cell phones and email, which soothe the ache but don't quite equal face time.

I anticipate moving again soon to a metro area where I'm sure to find more fellow maniacs, I mean novelists.

In the meantime, here's my long-distance toast to everyone who lives to make up worlds and the characters who complicate them. Cheers!

Lee Lofland said...

Don't forget your long distance friends. We need our email quality time, too!

Joe Moore said...

Sue Ann,
I don’t understand why you would think that a grown man sitting in a dark room all day staring at a computer monitor while playing pretend and making up stories would be cause for concern. Seems perfectly normal to me. :-)

I know what you mean about talking to non-writers. Out of courtesy, a friend will ask, "How's the new book coming?" A few moments later, after I've exposed the latest plot issue or character predicament, they yawn and say, "Well, good luck with that."

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Boy, Lee, you've got that right. I burn up the e-mail system with a couple of other authors, including our own Felicia Donovan.

BTW, Lee, THANKS for your great feedback Saturday night to my police question. I ended up expanding on it and it really added a lot of depth to that chapter.

BTW-2 - folks, if you haven't gotten your copy yet of Lee Lofland's Police Procedure & Investigation, do so. It's a must for every mystery writer's reference library.

Joe, I'm glad you clarified the part about making up stories, other wise "a grown man sitting in a dark room all day staring at a computer monitor" makes me think of a porn junkie.

G.M. Malliet said...

Joe: The risk of boring non-writers to pieces is a real occupational hazard. I try to summarize ("Well, I'm at a really sticky part of the manuscript") and even that is more than anyone wants to know.

"It's going great!" (even when it isn't, or especially when it isn't) is probably the only safe response.

Felicia Donovan said...

Sue Ann, what a wonderful post.

Just the other day, I had the chance to sit and chat with a fellow writer and we started to talk about stream of consciousness - that state when you don't know what your characters will come up with or where they'll lead you. Reading the words afterwards leaves a disembodied sense - "Did I really just write that?"

Muse? Demon? Alter ego? Schizophrenic voice? All of the above? It doesn't matter. What matters is that other writers "get" it and that is not only a comfort, but a unique connection that only we, as writers, can share.

I'm glad to be a member of the club...

Mark Terry said...

I cherish having another writer to occasionally vent about things with, even if we probably depress the hell out of each other (right, Joe?).

Sometimes at cons I've noticed we can be a bit guarded (at least until we hit the bar). Some writers feel they have an awful lot to protect (when maybe they don't) and it can be a little difficult to deal with the aspiring writers who get sort of aggressive with published writers (it's not just me that's had this, is it?).

But yes, although my wife's pretty happy to hear when a check is coming, mostly I can watch her phase-out when I start talking about any other part of publishing. (Hmmm, not unlike when she starts ranting about her job, I suppose).

Keith Raffel said...

It's not being a porn hound that we'e likely to be accused of. It's schizophrenia. What else would you call spending hour every day living in an alternative reality and hearing voices? Good luck in your world, Sue Ann.

Candy Calvert said...

Great post, Sue Ann. And so true.
Though I get a writer "fix" monthly because I'm in an RWA chapter, I try to "lunch" with these friends, as well. In fact, Thursday I'm meeting mystery author Jo-Ann Power. Wine, lunch--and then we go earring shopping!

dianaojames said...

What an incredible life authors lead. How do you all keep from going bonkers?

I'm ovbiously fascinated by the phsychology of writers, as I surround myself with them. I'm married to a thriller writer and as a Publicist, my clients are writers.

Whatever it is you all are doing, it's working. I've read so many wonderful works by Midnight Ink authors, such as Candy Calvert, Sue Ann, Tim Maleeny, and Keith Raffel. There are several other Midnighters on my nightstand, their works are calling out to me!

So, congrats to you all for your determination to put words on the page. We readers are all the richer for it.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Thank you, Sue Ann, for that post! It really makes me feel better about myself. I made even my loved ones a little nervous when I come back this week extolling the virtues of dramatic photos I saw at a discussion about crime-scene cleanup at the LA Sisters in Crime meeting. I was exclaiming, "The guy was stabbed in the aorta and ran down the hall trying to get help! It spurted a pattern that looked just like an EKG read-out! Omigosh!"

Friends and family don't like that. Crime writers understand.