I have a dear writing friend in Alabama who joins me on many of my writing adventures. Sometimes the adventures only require meeting at a coffee shop to share thoughts about our work. Sometimes our adventures require more planning and a road trip is involved.
And that’s when the adventures get crazy. While we are reasonably intelligent beings, we seem to have an innate ability to confuse ourselves whenever we hit the road. And this is with my TOM TOM GPS on board. Of course, I’d like to add that TOM TOM lies to us and steers us wrong on a regular basis. TT once took us to a hotel in Atlanta that didn’t exist despite inputting the correct address.
During these moments, I’d like to say that I’m the epitome of calm. Anyone who has driven with me when I’m lost will quickly refute my claim. There is no point in even bothering to pretend I’m cool when late, lost or both. Nope. I’m not. Fortunately, my co-pilot is — this is helpful in that we eventually do need to find our location.
With this knowledge, the fact that we are directionally challenged firmly ingrained in our heads, we ventured off to Atlanta for a GRW meeting. Once again, I dutifully plugged in TOM TOM and inputted the address. This time I was smart: I also printed a map with directions to our hotel. Didn’t matter. As I was driving over the mountain in Huntsville, TOM TOM blathered on and on about making left turns and U-turns.
His instructions did not coincide with the map’s. And so it goes. Confusion ensued. Fortunately, we’re visual so once we spotted a few familiar landmarks, we decided TOM TOM was deranged and kept driving. All and all, we had a pretty decent drive. No major mistakes and other than frightening some other drivers with our sudden lane changes, we managed to arrive at our hotel in Atlanta unscathed.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why drive 4 hours to another state to attend a chapter meeting? In fact, why leave home at all when we have writing to do? Why take the time away from our computers?
The answer is simple: these trips feed and nourish our writing souls.
Our journey was valuable to us. We got 8 hours total of talking about our books, our career, our writing, our process, what we learned, what we wanted to learn…. get two writers together and stick them in a car for that length of time and we’re in constant create mode. Although all that creating is probably the reason we get confused and lost and more while we are hunting for our exits and freeways… but I digress.
We also spent time with our writing friends on Friday night. Writing is a solitary pursuit and often filled with doubts about our talents, our stories, and the business. Connecting with other people who share our passion and who understand why we plunk ourselves in front of the computer despite all the roadblocks we encounter is vital to our creative process. In GA, sitting around a table in a restaurant, we discussed the most important aspect of our writing.
It’s not the business aspect about how many queries or submissions or requests to we have out, but the very heart of our writing: the books of our heart. We all have them. To be honest, I was battling back a darkness about my writing and my process. I didn’t want to worry about if or when I got published, I desperately needed to recharge my belief in my abilities, my process, and my stories. I think my friend did, too.
Friday night I began to believe in my stories again. Saturday I revitalized my belief in my process after attending the GRWA meeting. In addition to a great program discussion led by Missy Tippens about building the premise of the story, we also participated in a round table chat with a published author, Berta Platas, which validated my writing process. I guess I need to hear the same thing over and over again before it sinks in.
My process is my process. And yours is yours. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard. I’ve often wished I could be a clean and tidy writer with excellent grammar skills. I have fabulous writer friends who have those skills. I don’t. And it’s taken me a long time to accept the fact that I’m never going to be that kind of writer. However, on Saturday I realized I was lucky: I KNOW my process. I know how I write and how I need to build my stories. I will probably be impatient with my process, but I know my strengths and I have the people around me who can help me shore up my weaknesses.
My friend also had an epiphany about her writing and her goals. By taking the time to get away from our daily writing grind, we were able to take the long view and gain perspective. We returned to Alabama with renewed enthusiasm for our tasks. And we can’t wait to go back to Atlanta for the 2010 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. We’ll see our friends, attend an amazing workshop given by Michael Hauge and we’ll celebrate the MAGGIES on Saturday night. And I imagine we’ll come away from that conference filled to the brim with writing spirit. We’ll return to our chairs renewed and motivated.
How do you nourish your writing souls? How do you replace the darkness with light and energy? And if you can make it to the M&M this year, let me know, I’d love to see you Atlanta to talk about our favorite subject: writing.