‘Writing is a lonely craft,’ my university tutor said.
All of us in the group nodded and I thought: Yes, a writer has to hide away in their study clacking away on their typewriter. They have to concentrate. Those were the days back in the 1980’s…
I recalled as a student, hours locked up in my bedroom, writing my essays, trying to concentrate while my family went about their business, stomping in the passageway, dishes clattering in the kitchen and the television blaring in the lounge room. Did I mention trying to concentrate? Yes, trying, but not succeeding. And even now, as I write this blog, can’t go five minutes without interruptions. These days, though, I write my first draft, by hand, in a quiet place at a quiet time, and then I write this blog on the computer as a second draft.
So suffice to say, the statement by my tutor all those years ago, has an element of truth. And compared to being an artist or musician, writing is a lonely craft. I belong to an art group and enjoy going each week as the hall is filled with happy chatter and my fellow artists are friendly and welcoming. And I can imagine a musician, mostly has to play and sing with others in a band, their craft has to be performed to an audience. The lonely parts of a musician’s life, from my observation, is the process of composing music. Although, that being said, many musicians collaborate when they jam together and create new songs together.
On reflection, though, my experiences over time with the process of writing as isolating, no longer resonates with me. I don’t write alone. I have my characters. I go into their world. Call me crazy, but it’s like when I was a child and had imaginary friends. Come to think of it, perhaps because I was lonely, I became a writer. Figures, hours after school, on weekends and holidays to fill. There’s only so many hours my brother, five years older than me, would share with me playing games. And friends, too weren’t with me all the time. So, books became my friends, as well as characters in the world of fantasy I conjured up. I swooned away, sitting in my cubby house, and whole days drifted by in my other life of fiction, science fiction.
As I grew up, I became used to my own space. My loneliness transformed into the joy and peace of being alone. Time to think and explore ideas, the “what if’s” of life’s path, stories of people I’ve met, my story, and also the stories of my characters. Time to express these stories, writing them down. Many of these stories remain hidden in my journal, a hand-written scrawl; a mental work-out, sorting out ideas and emotions. Some make it to a Word File on the computer, some more serious missives have become articles for church devotions, a few hundred pages have ended up as works buried on the shelves of Amazon—self-published, but published all the same. And now there’s my blog, again mostly hidden in the blog-pile of the world-wide web.
Yet, once I’ve written the first draft in quietness and peace, the craft of writing becomes a collaborative process. Good writing needs feedback, editing and proof-reading. An effective piece of work needs a second, third and numerous sets of eyes, and many minds to weed the “gremlins” that beset the plot, content, and pacing. And a keen set of eyes to comb through the text to pick up grammar and spelling issues. The computer’s spell and grammar check are not enough.
I love to go to writers’ group. I heard someone on radio say that reading is the ultimate empathy tool. When we read we enter into another’s world and how they see the world. Exploring another’s world—how much more social can one get? This is what happens at writers’ group. We share our own world through our writing and we explore other writer’s world as we listen to each other’s stories. As fellow writers we need each other to hone our skills as a writer. We need each other’s feedback. How else will we refine our craft without feedback?
Still, there is an aspect of writing that makes it a lonely existence. As writers we are modern-day prophets, proclaiming words given to us, believing these words can and will make a difference in another’s life. Hoping, the change will be for good. The word is a powerful tool; a double-edged sword. God’s Word is described as a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) There’s a saying that sticks and stones can break bones but words cannot hurt me. Not true. Words can hurt. Words can also heal. Spoken words can sting or soothe, and then are gone, but the written word can endure and have power. People believe something is true because it’s in print. Reputations have risen and fallen on the power of the written word.
The printing press revolutionised the fifteenth century. Imagine words once written and hidden in some monastic library, then with the advent of the printed word, being duplicated and spread, and even appearing on church doors, for all to read. In our times we have witnessed the evolution of the power of the word through the internet. Need I say more—the gate-keepers of the past, by-passed, allowing all who are wanting to have a voice, freedom of written expression.
However, with freedom and power to influence, comes responsibility to use our gift and passion to write wisely and for the good of others. As a writer, I have written with good intentions to help others grow, help others see the world differently, change attitudes and effect a positive change in the world. Even so, my good intentions posted on my blog may have affected others in ways I didn’t intend. So I have an understanding now what it means that writing can be a lonely craft as there will always be someone who doesn’t see the world as I do, and may find my public interpretation of life offensive. My voice in the world-wide wilderness of the web may actually alienate me from others. So, I’m back where I started as a child, alone, with time and space to explore my world of fantasy with my characters as friends.
I guess that’s why I’m drawn to write Science Fiction. It’s out there, it’s fantasy and it’s a safe platform to explore ideas, issues and ways of looking at the world, the other world of “what-ifs”, that help readers open their minds to investigate alternative attitudes, and create discussion. Through this process, I hope to bring goodness and personal growth to all who are willing to join in the journey into my world with my characters.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Alone in Japan © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 1985