Though the title of this post may suggest this entry will be addressing the subject of creative collaboration, it won’t. At least, not in the sense of combining brainpower with another writer or artist on a single project. Rather, this is a post about community, the importance of creative support in an artist’s life, and maybe even a bit of a thanksgiving on my part, as well.
We all know writing can be a lonely business. Most of the time, it is just you, the page, your characters and your story. Sometimes, when you get knee-deep into the spinning of your yarn, the solitude can be a blessing, even a rare and precious commodity. Silence, space and time are the elements from which most of us spin our best gold. Other times, when the road gets tough and the whole Rumpelstiltskin-in-the-tower act starts to wear on you, it can be an equal boon (if not a greater one,) to have a friend (or five) to call on.
Non-writing friends and family members can provide a wealth of support in their own right, but more often than not, it is the artist-to-artist relationship that supplies just the right type of salve or the much-needed nudge in the right direction, the advice that reminds us the odds aren’t impossible, or the outside suggestion and fresh perspective that gets us out of the dreaded rut and moving once again.
Writing is scary. Creating is scary. Incubation, diligence and butt-in-chair discipline gets us going. But when the shine begins to wear off of what we’re doing, when we’re eye-high in a project we’re not sure we can pull off, or behind schedule, or facing the precipice of a complete do-over (or that even more daunting precipice of self-doubt,) we can start to feel lost in no-man’s land. The desert is treacherous and lonely country indeed. Treacherous but, thankfully, well-trodden.
And here comes my thank you, which I address not only to those close to me, including my mentors and teachers, my critique group, my beta readers and fellow Spalding MFA alumni, but to the Children’s Writing, MG, YA and NA community as a whole.
If you haven’t noticed (though I’m sure you have) we all tend to write well with others, don’t we? I believe this is one of the reasons the Children’s book industry continues to thrive. So thanks for lending an ear to each other, thanks for lending your eyes and expertise to one another’s work, thanks for pep-talking each other, for providing the encouragement needed for fresh ideas to grow and become art. Thanks also for challenging each other to come up higher, to be better at what we do, to refine our craft and our stories. Thanks for celebrating victories with one another and for mourning defeats and losses, too.
Thanks for reaching out. As writers, many of us are introverts, and it’s difficult for us to seek guidance. We might shy away from bugging another writer or asking for help or advice because we know how precious a resource time and attention can be. We can be afraid to tap the shoulder of another artist who seems busy. But a kind word and a warm smile from someone traveling the same road can sometimes mean the difference between the realization of a project and its demise. I know it did for one of mine.
(And don’t forget that it was Tabitha King who pulled Carrie out of the Stephen’s wastebasket.)
So thanks also for being that smiling person, the manuscript rescuer, the tough-love truth-giver, the save-the-artist activist.
I mean, for reals, we’re like the Avengers or something.
And a community like ours is a force to be reckoned with. So let’s keep up the good work.