The Community Table

Got my creative mojo refilled during last Sunday’s writers’ group. Lots of shop talk, which is my favorite topic ever. How to write. How to write better. How to struggle with writing and doubt yourself too much. How to plot, to outline, to pants, to get in the flow. How many metaphors are too many? Is any and all alliteration agonizing for the audience?

Talk to me for fifteen minutes about the M.I.C.E quotient and I will feel a deeper connection to you than if we’d small talked for a year. I like to defend my love of shop talk with Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,” but there’s probably some self-centeredness tangled in with the notion. Or maybe self-righteousness as I’ve often wondered what sort of minds endlessly discuss themselves.

Like I’m doing right this very moment. Pride goeth with the self-owning.

Here’s the thing with that Sunday dose of Exactly the Right Conversation For Me. I’ve been writing gangbusters since then. Sure, a little of that is putting what we discussed into practice, and a little bit is finally finding a new normal in this lockdown of ours. But mostly, I think my increased writing productivity sprang from good vibes from my people.

I could gust for days about how much I love and learn from my Sunday Writers’ Group. I’ve gushed to them, for sure. But the good vibes from my people comes from more than abundant admiration and like-thinking. The uplift comes from having a seat at the community table.

Sitting with people I admire, value and trust. Talking about writing tactics and craft challenges, and knowing they are as uplifted as I am about the conversation.

A lot of writers aren’t, which I try to accept as something similar to pantser vs. plotter. One way isn’t better than the other; it’s just what works for someone. Some writers are shop talkers, some don’t need that sort of peering behind the curtain.

I found my shop talkers. I sit with them for a couple of hours each Sunday. We talk craft. We over-exaggerate writing dilemmas and make plays on words. We mock genres. We praise genres. We dissect stories; we place them on pedestals with signs that say: do not touch.

The comfort of the right people for the right writer is profoundly enabling. The safety nets laid out create incredible opportunity for risks. The security of such friendships allow for elbow deep exploration of the darkest, truest, stickiest, basest, crudest, worst and best part of your imagination because you know your people will be waiting for you on the other side.

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