Tuesday, April 05, 2011

You Can't Do Aikido By Yourself

(X-Posted on FanSci.)
Or writing either.
Alone, what am I?
A solitary, wandering cloud, I guess.

But gathered together, in two or three?  I am a writing group!  

Five or six or even seven is better.  Much more than that I have found is too many.

This post here over at Strange Horizons, about a SF/F writing camp for young teens, started me thinking about it.  It was accepted wisdom when I was a young writer that writers didn't need writing workshops, or to go to school to learn to write, or things like writing groups.  After all, you couldn't "learn" writing.  One "was" a writer or one was not.  In order to write, one had to "live," and then write about "life," whatever that meant.

I had a professor tell me that very thing, in fact.  "You don't need to go to school," he said.  "You need to go have a life.  Get a job in a bar, or a restaurant.  Go to New York.  Do something.  Then you'll have something to write about."

And knowledge gained from other writers, knowledge gained in universities, obviously, that's not actual knowledge.

I think about this when I sit down each Thursday night with my writers in my Fiction Workshop at the university; and when I gather with the Boston Mountain Writers every Sunday afternoon in my living room, or up the mountain in Zelda's living room.  I remember how I felt when I was a young writer, 20 years old, sitting down at the long table in my first Fiction Workshop, how exhilarating it felt, even though I wasn't very good yet, even though I didn't know what I was doing and didn't really have anything to write about yet -- to be with other people who took writing seriously.  That was what I needed.  Other writers.  

If we were living in Paris in 1920, maybe we could have found them by hanging about the coffee shops.  Since we're not, we're getting it from writing groups, and writing workshops, and from the blogosphere.

So long as we do get it.

Gathering experience isn't enough. We've got to gather writers around us as well.

That's how we learn to write.

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