Last Monday I listened to an engaging reading and presentation by the best-selling author Elizabeth Berg at the Bloomingdale Public Library. What a marvelous evening. It raised an interesting issue for me: the fellowship of writers.
Writing is an isolated craft. A lonely art. I cannot imagine collaborating on a novel with anyone. The effort of writing is far too personal, and admittedly, the ego far too arrogant. But I remember studying creative writing in studio classes at the University of Nebraska-Omaha Writer’s Workshop, with my friend and mentor Richard Duggin puffing on his pipe, directing a spirited, if novice, discussion of some student’s work. Those sessions, despite their amateur haughtiness, established each of us as writers, at least in our own minds. Learning experiences. in how to write and how to accept criticism.
Years later, I reminisce about those sessions with nostalgia for the beauty of the group dynamic. Those same students often retreated to the Dundee Dell on Dodge Street to continue conversations inflated with hopes and braggadocio about our futures. Well, our futures have arrived. I miss the fellowship, the camaraderie, of those beer-infused evenings. Listening to Elizabeth Berg read from her latest masterpiece (I bought a copy Monday night and finished reading it the following day) made me long for an opportunity to talk to her about writing: about the process, the joy and disappointments, the rewards. To share.
I live in a Chicago suburb and the practicality of commuting to meetings of a writer’s group in the city conflicts with my lazy nature. I’ve investigated workshops, those that meet regularly or annual events, and dismissed them for a variety of reasons. What I want is a monthly meeting of a few accomplished, creative and imaginative writers, who would enjoy spending an hour or two talking about writing. Perhaps using the group as a sounding board for works in progress. or not. To talk shop. To find kindred souls. I know the virtual world provides analogous outlets, but online groups can’t provide the eye-to-eye connection. My wife is an excellent photographer and enjoys a creative group of other photographers. When they meet they share recent work, explore the nature of creativity in their art, and appreciate one another’s input.
There’s no immediate resolution to my conundrum. This is merely a bit of venting.
On another front, the draft of my next novel, The Unabridged Songwriter, came to a halt last week. Frustrating me. I’d reached a point in the plot where the main character’s actions felt unsupported by the foundation I’d laid in the first chapters. I was 185 pages into the manuscript, uncertain how much of a rewrite I needed to undertake to right the ship. All you can do in that situation is sit down with a print-out of the draft with a pen and begin reading. That’s what I accomplished this week and the scope of the rewrite was narrower than I feared. I actually erased much of the self-doubt that accompanies creative expression and walked away from the edited draft quite satisfied with the results. I anticipate I’ll finish the draft sometime this summer.
On Monday the writing begins again, with a newfound vigor.