“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes
I never know where I’m going to find inspiration or if I’m even going to find it. Nor do I know when I will receive some insight into my characters or their stories. Art is a difficult, solitary business. The struggle is lonely and typically quiet.
I am very fortunate to mentor students in the creative writing studio program at Simon Fraser University. Aside from our regular classes and workshops, we have been meeting most Sundays over the last couple of months for coffee, a chat and student readings. Even though these meetings are in our on-line classroom and we’re not sitting across from each other, it does feel as though we’ve met up at a favourite café.
We discuss our frustrations with our craft (where am I going with this story, I don’t know what’s supposed to happen next, I can’t find the time to write), laugh with each other, and share some incredible readings. The student readings are the concrete proof of what they have accomplished despite the challenges they’ve faced with getting story or poem on paper.
Last week, the students graciously asked me how my own writing was going.
“I’m at a standstill,” I said. “Never a good thing for me in anything. I like to move things forward.”
They laughed. I guess it’s hard to hide your true nature even in an on-line program.
“I’ve been having a difficult time understanding my characters and building the world they are living in,” I said. “I wish my characters would talk to me. I wish I understood their world a little better.”
“They will talk to you if you move forward,” one of my students said.
“But I have to get the basics right before I can move on.”
“Aren’t you the one who says the time for fixing the story is after you have a completed draft? You always say you’ll change a hundred things once you see and understand what you’ve written? That is when you fuss with fixing.”
It’s strange to hear your own words repeated back to you. And it came just in time.
Yes, writing is a solitary endeavour, but I’m not alone, not when I have a community around me.
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