"You must have writing friends. Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist. We suffer anyway as human beings. Don't make it any harder on yourself."
— Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
For years I wrote in the dark, clutching pen and paper and hiding anything that might reveal my loneliness, my need. I was a reporter in the early years of my writing career and I valued the ability to peer into the lives of others with measures of detachment and objectivity. Writing poetry was entirely different: I felt exposed, vulnerable, and afraid.
Attending my first writing workshop — with poet Judyth Hill, in Taos, New Mexico — cracked me open, and changed my life. Writing needs air, she said, needs to be shared. From that week I grew less afraid and more willing — even eager — to make writing friends.
Writing friends are not like other friends. We don't borrow sugar or share Facebook banter. We don't talk kids or jobs or everyday worries. Our focus is rather narrow. We meet to write, read, and share the writing life. We take part in "acts of literature" — things that feed creativity.
This morning, I enjoyed a weekly coffee and conversation with a poet-friend. We are 40 years apart in age but close together in our love of words. Today we shared works-in-progress, discussed possible revisions, and played a round of Bananagrams, a word game she introduced me to.
Next week, I'm having happy hour with another writing friend. When I moved to Oregon and was devoid of writer friends, she was the first to respond to my call for a writing group. For seven years, we've been faithful in our creative dates. Sometimes we write together. Sometimes we talk. A few months ago we spent a Saturday creating art postcards (and wrote poems on them, too).
Another friend and I have never met — but we share emails. Each week, we agree to a weekly writing prompt, then share the results. Just as with "normal" friends, life sometimes gets full, and so we share our struggles. And that's helpful, too.
Whether it's 40 years apart, or 4,000 miles away, I am grateful for these writer friends. They pull me out of the dark. And in the light, we help each other shine.
Do you have writer friends?
If you don't have any writer friends, what's holding you back?