Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing: Not so Solitary

I've come to the conclusion that I'm the luckiest writer in the world. Why's that?

Because of my wonderful husband.

You see, he is my target audience, critique group, first reader, and editor (in the grammar and spelling sense) all rolled into one. We think alike, we communicate (rather) well together, and I can trust him implicitly. The truth is I couldn't write without him. I know because I've tried.

 "Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking." ~Jessamyn West

Everywhere I go in the writing blogosphere, all the authors and those who give writing advice to new writers seem to agree on one thing. You shouldn't share your WIP with anyone. You should wait until it's done and even then you probably shouldn't share it with friends or family. What could I do in the face of such unanimity?

I have at times tried to go for weeks without talking to my husband about my WIP. I usually start out well. I'll get quite a bit of wordage under my belt and start feeling confident in my abilities... and then I always hit a wall. ALWAYS.

On the other hand, when my husband and I sit down together and talk about my ideas and the direction I want to go with my stories... then everything just seems to flow together. The ideas pour forth and everything becomes clear. Suddenly I figure out everything that's been troubling me.

Which is what happened last night. I've been feeling lost lately. Not just because I've been too sick for several days to do any writing and I don't have any momentum going. (Head colds: the bane of the writer.) Though that doesn't help. But also because there is a constant conflict within me between the worldbuilding aspect of the sub-creation I aim for and the actual narrative writing. I'm the sort of person that feel an intense need to fully understand the world I am writing about and how it works before I can write stories about it. (And not just cultural aspects of where the story is actually taking place, I'm talking the metaphysics of the whole universe. I feel the need to understand it as thoroughly as possible.) And yet I know that spending all my time worldbuilding isn't going to get my work published. This is a constant struggle for me. And it's often enough that it causes me to become paralyzed. (Because I wouldn't be a fantasy writer if I was an emotionally stable person.)

So after I'd sat there staring at my notebook without actually writing any words in it for about an hour I finally told my husband what was bothering me. And then we spent another hour discussing the metaphysical properties of air, earth and water, delving into the workings of the afterlife and exploring ideas about order and chaos, form and substance, and many other things.

As a result, I think I have a clearer idea of the overall story arc of my entire fantasy world than I ever have before. I know more about the timeline of the world (and where various stories will fit into it) and understand better the sources of conflict that exist there. All in all, I feel better prepared to write.

I won't make the mistake of trying to do this alone again. For me, writing is not, cannot be, a solitary occupation. And I'm so lucky to have someone that I can share this process with intimately. I wouldn't want to do it any other way.


  1. I bounce ideas off my wife all the time! Nothing wrong with that.

  2. My husband helped my stories so much! And I've been afraid to start writing a sequel to my first book because I didn't have ideas, but after bouncing things around with him, I'm on a roll. Once I'm into it, I force him to sit and listen to me read it aloud so we can catch things that don't work. But I do like to withold a surprise or two to make it fun for him at the end.

    Moral of story: Do what works for you and don't worry about what others say or do!

  3. In my opinion, everyone works differently and that's a good thing. You'll see people online rallying against outlining or pantsing or how terrible it is to wait for the muse to show up before writing. Or that you must write 1,000 words every day to be a real writer. It's all BS. Work the way that works for you. You don't have to fit anybody else's mold for how to write.

  4. I wish I had someone I could do that with, but I don't ^^; So I shall continue to toil alone and hold onto my WiPs until *I'm* ready for others to see them.

    And beisdes, advice is there to be ignored, right? ;)

  5. Heck ya! I'm glad you have a hubby that you can work with in writing. My husband does not love reading and if he does read it's a western, so my YA Fantasy books are out of the question. I really think it would be awesome if I could use him to work on my WIP's, but alas... I cannot. Think its awesome that you can, and am glad you will continue to do so! So awesome :)

  6. We all have different methods of writing! :) Personally, I think it's great that you have someone to talk things out with; I wish I did.

  7. I read House to my kids as I was writing it. Chapter by chapter.

    Tolkien took his whole life creating Middle Earth, and he still wasn't finished.

  8. I love getting outside feedback! The lady who runs my very amazing local writing studio likes to say: "Writing is an act of isolation. But writers don't have to be isolated."

    The ideas might be inside our heads, but we can share them with whoever we want throughout the writing process!

  9. How wonderful to have someone with whom you can discuss the book and world in that much detail. I can see how it would be especially useful for worldbuilding. I just can't seem to do it, though - I don't mind sharing later, but the initial drafts are all developed in isolation.


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