Tuesday, June 11, 2019

How to Be Your Own Writer's Group

Photo © Creative Commons Zero (CCO)

After fifteen years, my writer's group has called it a day. The reasons are many: extensive travel plans; classes and life changes; projects and deadlines to meet. We just don't have the time any more for freewriting together on a bi-weekly basis. But that doesn't mean I'm going to abandon my own personal schedule of artist's dates and making time to sit down, slow down, and check-in with myself. (How's it going, Valerie? Well, I managed to revise twenty pages of Ghazal and three sketches on my picture book this week. Really? Great! Have a latte.)

It's going to be different, no two ways about it, but I've come up with a plan to ensure I still have a creative life beyond my desk or art table:
  • Keep writing in cafes. I've always loved drinking a cup of tea or coffee while I scribbled in a spiral-bound notebook surrounded by a crowd of noisy strangers. The more chaotic the atmosphere, the better the writing seemed to be! Although I'm no longer in a group, I still want to have cafe time to a) journal on my writing progress, b) create my synopses, query letters, and book descriptions, and c) work on a new project/challenge I'll be announcing in a couple of weeks!
  • Watch YouTube.com videos on art and writing. Instead of watching the usual TV programs, I can set aside a dedicated half hour or so to learn a new creative technique or listen to an inspiring talk.
  • Enroll in an online class. There are so many to choose from! I may not do this for a little while, but it might be fun for say, Inktober (an ink drawing a day challenge in October). Interacting with the teacher and other students might prove to be the most valuable part of the class.
  • New supplies. There's nothing like a trip to the office supply or art store at least once a month. Gel pens, sketchbooks, brushes, color pencils . . . shopping for supplies is always the perfect artist date.
  • Buy a new prompt or how-to book or magazine once a month (or so). Bookstores, yay! Need I say more?
  • Cut out magazine photos, and rather than create new stories from the pictures, see if I can use them as reference photos to illustrate my WIP. Although Ghazal is a literary novel for adults, I enjoy designing illustrations to go with the plot. So far these have only been rough sketches, but I'd like to go deeper with these and create some solid artwork based on my plot. And who knows? I might end up having an illustrated novel after all--a whole new genre!
  • Pick a non-cafe writing spot to use on a regular basis. For most of our meetings as a group we needed to find a place that was good for everyone with good parking, wasn't too noisy (not many people share my ability shut out distraction), and that provided privacy for reading our work aloud. Now that it's just me, I might go to a park, a business center, or a hotel lobby, places that might not welcome a group but are fine with a lone visitor. 
  • Use social media to connect to other writers. I've been so busy with my book these last few months that I've let my tweeting and even my blogging slide a bit. Thinking up tips and motivations for fellow writers and artists is a great way to connect online without resorting to tweets such as: "I had a sandwich for lunch." (I still do that, but I do try to justify it by sharing a vegetarian sandwich ingredient or recipe others might like to try!
I was lucky to have my group for so long, and the one thing that won't change is our friendship. We still plan to have lunch, visit galleries, and have some non-writing adventures together. In the meantime: happy trails, all. Thanks for hanging in there. 

Tip of the Day:  For most of my writing life, I've gravitated toward writing groups. The same with art. But now it's time to think outside of the box and explore something new, groups that focus on travel, beading, reading--they're all out there. But until then, I've got a book to finish . . . a never-ending book . . . Hello, manuscript. Have another latte.