Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Aloneness (not loneliness), community, and making the internal external

Monday is the day I reclaim solitude. I love my family and friends, but I love my work too. Isolation is essential for focus. Being self-employed allows me flexibility for coffee and lunch-dates, however I rarely schedule purely social daytime meetings, and particularly loathe planning any kind of appointment on Mondays. The hours while my daughter is at school are few, and those hours constitute my main work time. Plus, I need daylight to see my art properly.

The “loneliness” of writers and artists is a lot of hooey. I do not feel lonely when I am alone. Years ago I read The Shape of Content by painter Ben Shahn, a series of lectures he delivered at Harvard. Shahn discusses the act of painting as a dialogue between creator and creation. The work takes on its own life. This rings true! When I am creating I am deep in conversation. Most creators would agree that few dialogues are as satisfying

I do willingly attend two daytime monthly critique groups. I’ve been a member of a local writers group for several years. Most members are focused on middle grade, YA and even adult works. This group has astute, thoughtful writers with good ears and great advice. Last month I added a second daytime critique group in San Francisco. All the members are picture book authors AND illustrators. The new group skews more toward illustration critiques and is so delightful that I’ve even agreed to meet on Mondays. I am lucky for this wealth of support.

A critique venue is essential for creators. Regularly scheduled meetings serve as deadlines to motivate writing and sketching. “Crits” were my favorite part of art school. They helped me learn to distance myself from my work. Now in writers groups, reading aloud to others makes me hear my work in a new way. It is quickly evident whether the work is met with confusion, boredom, or enthusiasm. Suggestions often unlock problem areas. Affirmations and guidance can make the difference of whether or not a work-in-progress is brought to completion.

For those looking to connect with other writers, consider enrolling in a writing class. Class workshops have helped me develop manuscripts that were subsequently acquired. I’ve known class groups to continue meeting after the class has officially ended. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has chapters all over the world now. There are newsletters and lists that help members connect with others looking to form critique groups. Even meeting with one other committed author is valuable. I have a couple friends in the field with whom I meet for this kind of exchange.

Authors now need to be marketers. Social networking, attending conferences, speaking engagements and presentations connect the creator to their public. I have not figured out the balance between being the private creator and the public promoter. Each role seems to demand more and more time. Something tells me that I will wrestle with this until I’m horizontal for good.


Stephanie said...

You sound so danged organized. Man. I love the concept of aloneness not being lonely. I agree with that so much. Plus, I am surrounded by 200 pounds of labs and a stupid cat at all times, it is hard to be lonely...

amy timberlake said...

I liked this post. And yes, I am too trying to figure out the balance between social networking, marketing and creating. Creating takes A LOT of focus, which as you say (and I find) is divided when I'm thinking in tweets, or even blog posts, instead of novel length writing . . . I enjoyed your thoughts!

john said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. I recently heard someone say that many people engage with the social networking in the way they do with people directly, so introverts tend to be introverted and extroverts tend to be extrorverted. Of course, when we're a mix, it's a mix, too. I know very few people who feel like they've got this balance right.

Christy said...

Stephanie, me-organized? Labs+cat=3 muses

Amy, thanks for joining in! I resist tweeting--too constant of an interruption.

John, I am definitely an introverted-social networker--mostly a voyeur.

Edie Hemingway said...

Oh, Christy, how true these thoughts are! I'm on the last leg of over two weeks on the road (not really much to many of you), but I'm struggling with finding the balance between private creator and public promoter. Good luck to you in your alone time--I know you're creating more beautiful work!

Lauren said...

I love Mondays too-- the weekends are time to connect with home, family, and friends, but when Monday morning comes I can't wait for my alone time in the studio.
Great post Christy! And you make me want to move to the Bay Area for all the writing and critique groups you have access to!

Mark said...

So many good points and advice in this post, Christy. I really like your thoughts about the "dialogue" between a creator and his/her works, and of course the joys of Mondays and a return to solitude/creation.