Why writers need community, Part 2

hands-in-teamwork_headerThis is a myth we often buy into as writers: that it’s solitary work. The stereotype is romantic — the novelist or poet locked into a small room, hunched over a typewriter, pouring inspired verse onto a page. Genius happens in solitude. Friends can be found and parties attended after the writing is published. Whenever that happens.

I don’t buy it.

Sure, we all need periods of quiet and focus to get our work done. But if writing is such a solo endeavor, why do we writers often get so much done in a class or workshop or write-in or group? Company — the right kind of company — bolsters creativity because it energizes and inspired and reminds us that we’re not alone. Others know this path, others can relate to our struggles, others appreciate our efforts and we will not languish in obscurity because we’ve already arrived in community. Continue reading

The bad girls’ book club and crime spree

From a month-long experiment writing about community, using social media as a platform.

Okay, there wasn’t much of a crime spree. I did steal some hair dye. This was before the days of Manic Panic so I used to color my homemade faux-hawk by first bleaching it with Sun-In and a hairdryer, and then dying it with the blue tint that old ladies used to buy at the drug store. But this is about community and not about shoplifting, though some of the best connections I made during my high school years were with the kind of girls who encouraged that sort of behavior.

15871892_10154669000640218_7627992220536349783_nSometimes we stole things. It was more often beer than hair dye. We wrote things in bathroom stalls. More often, we wrote in our journals — every detail of our terribly interesting lives — and then we traded journals and read each other’s pages even though we’d been through most of it together. I’m compositing a number of high school friends here, though the relationships came one at a time and each was special and rare, and each shaped the me who I am now.

Friendships with good girls were important to me, too. My close friendships have been few and far between and I’ve cherished each one. But for some reason, between the ages of 13 and 18, my best friends were bad influences — fearless girls who egged me on and pushed me beyond my shy, studious, good-kid shell.

This is what we did: Shared everything. Every secret, every book we read, every album we superthumblistened to, every derivative poem we wrote, ever ache and fear and bruise and self-inflicted cut. We snuck into punk clubs, bought clothes at Salvation Army and reconfigured them into new outfits, traded boots and coats and earrings, consoled each other over shitty boy drama, walked for miles in the cold just to be doing something and going somewhere. We walked or took the bus because we were too young to drive and then too busy to learn to drive and then too poor to own cars. We stomped around in the cold, rosy cheeked and immune to frostbite, always on our way to a fantastic adventure.

We piled cast-out Christmas trees on rich-people cars. We sat in diners for hours drinking cup after cup of bad coffee. We talked about running away and made plans to run away and then we met new boys and stayed because maybe there would be a show or a party or something good. The future was soon; the now was hazy with the smoke of clove cigarettes and frosty breath and bad choices.

But the bad choices were good, too. Some of them still hurt like a war wound that flares up when it rains, but the hurt is a connection to a past and the past holds the bad girls who were my girls, my sisters, my family, my home. Community is where we make it, even if what we’re making is a mess. It all counts, it’s all part of the narrative.