Whining on the Yacht (A love letter)

One of my dearest friends read last week’s post with the subject line, a love letter about winning, and wrote me that she thought it said whining. To which I responded, what an excellent idea for a newsletter. And so here we go.

In the spirit of the Olympics, I am a championship whiner.  I can whine about anything, and I do.  It’s too rainy, it’s too sunny (only a native Oregonian would whine about that), I’m too tired, I’m hungry, I’m full, I can’t focus, my knee hurts, I don’t want to exercise, my writing is crap…on and on it goes.

Until I get pulled up short and reminded how lucky I am.  Most recently it was when I was watching a Facebook live event of an energy healer.  (I’m pretty fascinated with this guy, Charlie Goldsmith.) As he worked with people on camera, others commented. By the time I quit watching, there were something like 18,000 comments. And 99.9% listed the terrible physical problems people were having, and begging for help.

If that doesn’t make you sit up and realize how lucky you are, I don’t know what does. Which is when I remind myself of the phrase, no whining on the yacht. I’m not sure where this originally came from, but I first heard it from my daughter-in-law a couple years ago.  (Okay, I just looked it up.  There’s an article dated 2010 that attributes it to U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer.)

I have a wonderful family and friends, an amazing agent who loves my work and is determined to sell it, and oh yeah—I get to spend the whole month of March in France, writing. So yeah, not a lot to whine about.

And, most of all, I’m a writer. I get to write every day of my life and many days I get to work with other writers.  I have an activity that I never get tired of, and I never, ever get bored, because there’s always another story to uncover.

So yeah, my novels may not have found a publisher yet, and I may wish I had more time to devote solely to writing them. I’m not rich, money-wise, and I do have chronic knee pain.  I get called on way too often to watch grandchildren or drive neighbor kids to school because I work at home.  I’m always, always, always, looking for more time to do the things I love.

But who freaking cares? Because I’m a writer. I’m one of the lucky ones in the world, because I get to make up stories and bring them to the world.

(This article first appeared in my weekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer. If you’d like it to arrive directly into your inbox each Sunday morning, you can subscribe in the form to the right.)

Indecision is the Devil for Writers

Indecision is my downfall.

If I know where I’m going next in my writing, it is no problem to sit down to my computer and get words on the page.  I can wrack up a good word count in no time.

But if I’m not quite sure what to write next, forget about it.  My brain gets fuzzy. I can’t seem to connect with my work. I don’t know what to do next and so more often than not I don’t do anything.

This goes for my to-do list as well.  Sometimes it gets so overwhelming that I just stare at it–and then go look for an interesting knitting blog to read.  Or, better yet, a writing blog, because then I can pretend I am working!

So lately my process with my to-do list has been to make a decision on what needs to happen next.  In today’s case, it was writing this blog post. And then I just focus on that until it is finished and I can move on to the next thing.  Here’s the key: if other things crowd my brain for attention, as they do, I remind my brain what I’ve decided to focus on. Once it is finished, I can look at the other things clamoring away and decide what’s next.

Funnily enough, as I was pondering this post, this post came to my attention. It outlines a very similar process, called the Ivy Lee process for productivity. (It is worth heading over there and taking a look.)

So how does this relate back to writing? For me, it means always knowing where I’m going next so that there’s no time for indecision to take hold. Once I’m rolling on a project, this is usually not a problem.  But sometimes writer’s block does strike–and it’s always, always, always because I’m not sure where to go next.

Things I recommend to prevent indecision from stymying your writing:

  • If you start to feel blocked, even a faint whiff of it, free write. Take the last line of the last scene you wrote and use that as a prompt.  Or just write out the problem as a prompt.
  • Maintain a list of ideas in a dedicated notebook. Anytime you have a moment of indecision, check out the list. It might get you going again.
  • Don’t slavishly adhere to chronology.  If the scene you’re working on isn’t lighting you up, move on to another one.
  • Create a loose outline. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Mine is just a list of scenes with notes about each scrawled about each one. But it really helps those moments of indecisiveness.
  • If all else fails, just choose something and go with it.  Not sure if your character should jump off a bridge or ride a merry-go-round? Just commit and write. You’d be amazed how often this works.  And if it doesn’t, you’ll soon figure it out.

How do you deal with indecision that blocks you? Leave a comment!

Or join the Facebook group and come chat there!

Photos from everystockphoto.

Sub-plot, or The Other Thing

The other night, my husband and I watched an episode of Scorpion, which I’d only see bits and pieces of before and ended up thoroughly enjoying.  The show is about a band of misfit computer experts led by Katherine McPhee, who is their interface and explainer of the real world.  In this episode, a helicopter carrying a doctor had crashed into a parking garage in high winds.  The helicopter was stable, as were its passengers, but the doctor had to be extracted immediately because she was the only doctor who could perform a certain kind of surgery and she had a dying patient awaiting her. (Hence why she was being flown in.) So the gang had to figure out how to perform a very risk rescue.

It was all very exciting, but what struck me was how the writers made great use of sub-plots. One involved the meteorological expert’s budding ardor for a chemist who works nearby and also the trials of a couple who were dealing with infertility. (I know, I know, sounds like a lot to pack into one episode, but it worked.) The sub-plots gave what otherwise could have been a routine action show a good dose of human pathos, especially because of the way the writers worked them in around the ongoing drama.

And that made me ponder sub-plots. When I first started writing fiction back when we all lived in caves, I was intimidated by sub-plots.  They sounded complicated and complex to try to fit in.  I mean, it is hard enough to figure out one plot from start to finish, right? And then you’re supposed to add in others? And make them relate to the main plot?

But then I realized that I was over-thinking the whole sub-plot thing.  They can be as simple as a few brief mentions of a minor character’s arc or some silly joke that carries through the plot.

You can think of them as, simply, another thing.  A thing that will take the pressure off your main character and your main story, thus giving it, your readers, and you, some time to breathe.  Often a story feels a little bare until you add in this other thing.

Ways to add in more things

Add another aspect to your main character.

Think, for example, of your own life.  You wear many hats, right? You’re a writer, but you’re also perhaps a parent or an aunt or an uncle, a friend, and likely you work at some kind of job. Then there are your hobbies and activities–maybe you run every day after work, or spend the evening in front of the TV knitting. Or perhaps you bake amazing sweets.  Or raise turtles. Or like to flip houses.

But if you were writing yourself as a character and focused solely on one of those things, the story would soon get a little stale. What if we only saw your character watching TV? Or running? Or tending the turtles?  That would not be a developed picture of you at all.  And that’s one way to add a sub-plot: add another element to the character.  I remember one from a novel that I read long ago in which the main character was constipated the entire novel. At one point, he finally was able to go. I know, I know. But it could be thought of as another thing.

Add a love interest.

Boo-yah.  Done and done.  If you’re writing a mystery or thriller or literary fiction, a love interest adds a human element readers love.

Create a habit for your character.

This can be either one she is trying to acquire or one she is trying to break. As a running line throughout the story, it can add depth and maybe even some humor.

Use a minor character for a sub-plot.

In my novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, I gave her assistant an arc that became a sub-plot. She started out completely against romance and ended up madly in love.

Give your character something to master.

Maybe your character takes up jewelry-making to find a way to relax from the stress of her job.   Or decides to plant a garden.  Showing a character mastering something new is satisfying for the reader.

Give your character a hobby.

I love to knit. While most of the time I do this at home, I also attend knit nights at local knitting stores and the monthly meeting of my knitting guild.  Something like this gives your character more dimension and also gives you more fodder for the plot.

How to use sub-plots

  • Only add in one or two! Too many will overload your story.
  • Remember that sub-plots will be introduced and completed before the start and finish of your story.  Save the beginning and end for the main plot
  • Sub-plots are very handy for pacing. You can have one sub-plot hanging out there, then introduce another one and meanwhile be moving along the main elements of the plot.  Open plot lines are a great way to keep the reader interested.
  • Keep your sub-plots organic to the story. Does it feel forced? Don’t use it. For instance, it is probably not going to feel natural for a business executive living in Manhattan to start raising chickens.
  • Similar to above, be sure to find a way to connect or relate your sub-plot to the story.

How do you use sub-plots in your stories? Do any of these ideas resonate? Leave a comment–or come over to the Facebook page to share.


On Winning (A Love Letter)

I’m all in on the Olympics this month. (Read my blog post from earlier this week about my love of them here.)

And no matter what anybody says about brotherhood and world peace and all that jazz, the Olympics are about winning.  So, maybe the silver is kinda okay, but the bronze.  Bah-boom.*  Everybody wants the gold, right? You don’t get the cereal box if you don’t get the gold. You don’t get the lucrative endorsement.

You gotta go for the gold. For the win.

And as writers, so do we.

But here’s the deal: it is up to you to figure out what winning is for you. What’s your win?

My wise friend Angie often talks about defining what success means. For you. Not for the other writers in your writing group. For you.  Do you want:

To be a best-selling writer?

A contract with a traditional publisher?

To make a living writing?

To quietly write books that maybe only family and friends will read?

To write for fun?

To find satisfaction in journaling regularly?

To write a family history for posterity?

To get letters to the editor published?

To share your poetry?

To pump out as many books as you possibly can?

It doesn’t matter how you answer.  But answer honestly. Because writing success is a long game, and so you better make yourself happy while you’re doing it. Because otherwise, what is the point.

So while I’m engrossed in watching the Olympics this month, I’ll be thinking about my definition of writing success.  How about you?

* Here’s an interesting factoid for you: there’s actually an online sound dictionary! Here’s the link. I couldn’t figure out how to write the sound a buzzer would make, and I looked it up. And still didn’t find one that satisfied me, so used another. But, cool, huh?

Hey–I’m offering one lucky person a coaching slot for March. Email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com if you’re interested.

What’s Your Word Count–and Does it Matter?

I’ve been working with one of my clients, who shall remain nameless (Hi, Mitch!) to trim down his long middle grade fantasy.  Clocking in at over 140,000 words it is, as I said, long.

Meanwhile, I recently set out to write a short story.   Apparently, I have a hard time writing anything short.  The story ended up at almost 15,000 words. Which isn’t terrible, but still on the long side for a short story. (When I was a kid, my Mom subscribed to all the lady’s magazines of the day and back then, they all published fiction, what they called short stories.  I expected short stories to be short, like one page or so.  I was always annoyed at how long short stories were. So it’s ironic that I am now the queen of writing long short stories.)  It gets worse. Last year I set out to write a novella.  It’s just shy of 50,000 words, which is short novel length.

Does word count matter?

So, with all these varying word counts, does it really matter? Should my client and I be struggling to trim scenes to make his novel shorter? Should I turn my novella into a novel by adding a few scenes?

Word count does matter–publishers will balk at anything over 100k. The first novel (women’s fiction) I submitted to my agent came in at over 100k and I was instructed to trim it done.  Publishers don’t like long works because they  will cost more to print, for one thing.  And even if your longer book is self pubbed, many people will balk at reading such a long novel. I know my own reading habits, and I tend not to finish overly long books, so I wouldn’t buy one in the first place.

On the other hand, if something is too short it might seem flimsy.  Trivial.  Not substantial enough to warrant going to the trouble of publishing. Of course, in these days of self publishing, all those rules have gone out the window.  But, still–many’s the review I’ve read on Amazon complaining about the shortness of a book.

So, what’s a writer to do? 

Probably aim for a reasonable word count within industry standards is the best option. What, you ask, are those industry standards? Well, funny thing, they tend to vary a lot according to genre. Or who you ask. Or what way the wind is blowing. Or how the planets are arranged.

But, I’ve  come up with some good guesses estimates. While I’m citing specific sources, I looked around a lot to find credible ones that seemed pretty ballpark. So I think the following are good guidelines:

According to Reedsy, here are standard word counts by genre:

  • Commercial and literary novels: 80,000 – 100,000
  • Science fiction and fantasy: 100,000 – 115,000
  • Young adult: 55,000 – 70,000
  • Middle grade: 20,000 – 55,000
  • Romance: 80,000 – 100,000
  • Mystery: 75,000 – 100,000
  • Thriller: 90,000 – 100,000
  • Memoir: 80,000 – 90,000
  • Western: 45,000 – 75,000

And here, some counts for shorter works (from Christopher Fielden):


  • Flash fiction: under 1,000 words
  • Short story: 500 to 17,000 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 25,000 words
  • Novella: 10,000 to 70,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 words or more

Some random things to keep in mind:


  • The standard word count per page of double-spaced manuscript is still considered to be 250.
  • The industry relies on word count rather than page count because page size varies according to format, but word count remains the same.
  • Edgar Allen Poe defined a short story as a story that could be read in one sitting.
  • Here’s a fun infographic of the word counts of some famous books.  (593,674 for A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth!)
  • According to Amazon, the median length for all books is about 64,000 words.
  • And, finally, the best rule to adhere to is this: write your book as long as it needs to be.

What’s the word count of your current project? Do you worry about it? Leave a comment. Or come on over to the Facebook page to discuss.

***I have room for one client or editing job during my upcoming writing sojourn in France. Email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com if you’re interested.

On Writing and the Olympics

I’m ready. I’ve got two projects I want to finish, one knitted, one crocheted, on the needles, and I’ve warned my husband that we’ll be eating our dinners in front of the TV for the next couple weeks.  Because: Olympics.  Because: Winter Olympics.

I love them.

I love watching the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics.   I love the skating (all of it, from figure to racing), the skiing, the crazy jumping. Even the curling.  I love seeing the snow and how beautiful it all is.

I think I love it because I don’t do any of these sports. Oh, I took figure skating as a kid after the doctor told my Mom it would be good for my ankle after I broke it. My sister and I got matching-but-different-color skating skirts and went to the mall every Sunday afternoon to wobble around on the ice.

And I had a brief shining moment as a skier in college. I was so into it that I took a semester off school and lived and worked in Sun Valley one winter.  While I lived there that year, I got to see a World Cup race in person, which was pretty awesome.  As I recall, watching the races was easily accessible. These days it would probably be a mob scene.

And even though here in Portland we got tons of snow last year (well if tons means a dusting that shuts the city down every week) we don’t often see a lot of it.  This year, one storm on Christmas Eve that only succeeded in ruining everyone’s holiday plans.

So I watch these sports that are held on snow and ice every four years from the comfort of my home, likely holding knitting needles and a glass of wine. And, honestly? At this stage in my life I’m happy to be viewing from the comfort of my home.

What does this have to do with writing? One word: passion.  It takes passion by the truckload to become an Olympic champion and I submit it takes the same to become a writer.  Okay, so one is physical and one mainly mental.  Same trait, different arena.  And I think this has a lot to do with my fascination over the games.  I love stories of people excelling, no matter what they choose to excel at.

You and I won’t may not ever make an Olympic team.  But we can excel at our own personal writing.  How? One word at a time, one writing session at a time. Over and over and over again.

One of my favorite current promos for the Olympics shows skier Lindsay Vonn as she prepares for her competition.   It intersperses shots of her as a tiny little girl first on skies, with her kicking ass in the gym and flying down the ski slopes.  It reminds me, every time I see it, of what it takes to succeed.

Yeah, you can call it grit or determination or discipline or whatever you want. But all it really is for us writers is to sit down over and over and over again and return to the page.


Hey–join the Prolific and Prosperous Writers Facebook group.  Lots of good stuff going on over there.

And–I’m going to France for the month of March and taking a couple lucky clients with me. Metaphorically, people.  I’m committing to work with only 2 people while I’m there doing mostly writing and I’ve got one person lined up. So if you need some help with your writing, be it encouragement or editing, pop me a line at wordstrumpet@gmail.com.


How Writers are Different (A Love Letter)

Hey! Come join us at the Prolific and Prosperous Writers Facebook page. Just head on over here and ask to join and I’ll approve you!

We’re just alike you and I, and that makes us different than the rest of the world. Because we are writers.

Years ago, in a writing workshop, I learned about the “we’re just alike” moment that nearly every movie has.  Watch for it and you’ll see it—there’s a point where the protagonist and the antagonist realize they are have similarities as well as differences.  I’m not as up on screenplay tropes as I should be, so I’m not entirely sure of the point, but I do know I see it (when I look for it) all the time.

And that’s how I feel about being a writer.  I’m just like you because we’re writers. We have fictional characters rumbling about in our heads and sometimes they are more real than the people in our family.  We get a glazed look in our eyes in the middle of a dinner party as an idea for a story hits us.  Every thing in our worlds is grist for our writing mill.

And you and I are different than the rest of the world.  There’s the creative tension I talked about last week, for instance.  That alone would be enough to separate us from non-writers. But there’s also the fact that many people can’t imagine spending hours alone at a computer, let alone doing an activity that some hate. Or having the passion to rise early, or stay up late, so you have time to write. Or understanding an arcane language full of words like WIP, pantser, and plotter.

So, what’s the point of all this? (Besides the idea that if you’re writing a screenplay you might want to include such a moment?) It’s that you remember this and honor it.  Because if you honor that you are a writer, through and through, you’ll remember that there’s one key thing that makes us different from everyone else: we write.

So remember it and get thee to the page.  I went on an internet spree while I was writing this searching for a particular quote to include.  Didn’t find it—but found a bunch of others. So I’m going to do something a little different this week and post them here for you.  So that they might help to remind you.  Post them somewhere you’ll see them when you’re tempted to go mop the kitchen floor or reorganize your junk drawer instead of writing.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  Oscar Wilde

“The world is a brighter place when we each manifest who we are.” Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness.” Allen Ginsberg

“Don’t compromise yourself—you’re all you have.” John Grisham

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” Rumi

“Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, stop caring what others think.” Roy T. Bennett

Do you have a favorite quote about writing, or motivation, or inspiration? Leave a comment and tell me, or better yet, head over to the Facebook group and share it there.

And whatever you do, honor yourself as a writer—and go write.

Writers Judging (Who, Me? Yes, You. And Me, Too)

I’m reading a book about judgment. Yes, judgment.  It’s called Judgment Detox by  Gabrielle Bernstein.   I love this topic because I am a very judgy person and I don’t often see it addressed.  Yet, it is important–so important, especially for anyone trying to do anything creative. Like writing.

The first self-help book I ever read was a mass market paperback that I can’t remember the name of. I’m pretty sure i was embarrassed to buy it (this was in pre-Amazon days, before you could order books online). Because in those days, I knew nobody who read self-help, or spirituality, or books on productivity and brain stuff. (There weren’t many books on brain stuff, so much of the science is so new.) The only thing I remember about the book is that it instructed readers not to judge.

And I was outraged. Not judge! Harumph! Of course we judge. We have to.  We have to judge little things, all day, every day–like what should I eat for breakfast, does the outfit look good on me, and what’s the fastest way to drive to work? All judgements, all needed.

Well, yes. But those aren’t the types of judgments that long-ago self-help author and Bernstein are talking about.  These judgments–the ones we’re talking about today–are the kinds that separate us from other people, the world, and ourselves.  That last bit if crucial for creativity, because if we are separated from ourself, how can we create?

And yet that is exactly what judgment does.  Because when we judge, we’re judging something that makes us uncomfortable about ourselves. When we judge, we ultimately feel ashamed and guilty.  And cliche of the tortured artist aside, those are not good emotional states from which to write.

Some ways we writers judge  

Other people.  We judge other writers.  How did that 21-year-old get a mega-publishing deal? She can’t know anything at that age! Or, oh no, that writer I got my MFA with has published five novels to my one. And let’s be honest–they all suck.  Or, her writing is not nearly as good as mine.  On and on and on the variations go.

The world. Publishing in particular.  It’s all rigged. It’s all hyped. Traditional publishing takes forever.  You can’t get past the gate-keepers.  They don’t pay any royalties. They don’t do any marketing.  They only want to publish big names! On and on we go.

Ourselves.  I can’t write. Nobody is going to want to read this.  This is dreck!  My family is going to hate me when my memoir comes out.  Oh, I can’t believe how awful this is! People will laugh at me! Oh no, oh no oh no.

Just reading all that crap makes you feel sort of gloomy and heavy, doesn’t it? And yet we feed ourselves a constant stream of it all day every day. (At least I do.  If you don’t, please leave me a comment and tell how you got to this enlightened state.) And I do know for a fact that an incessant inner judgy voice is not conducive to getting words on the page. At all. So what’s a writer to do?

Dealing with Judgment

The thing with judgment is that it is easy to fall into the trap of judging yourself because you are judging. Sigh. So the trick is to become aware of it without judging. Just become aware of it. Let it rise up. Say, oh hello judgement and let it go.  Sort of like when thoughts come up as you meditate.  Do not do battle with it.  Do not engage it.  This process get easier over time–both the recognizing of it and the releasing of it.

You can also try techniques such as:

Journaling–write your angst out on the page.

EFT–tap away the judginess.

Meditation–everyone’s favorite. Hahahaha. But I have noticed that over time, a consistent meditation practice reduces my judgy ways.

Exercise–go for a walk and get your ya-yas out!

Most of all, be kind to yourself–don’t judge yourself if you sit down for a writing session and start telling yourself how awful your work is. Changing ingrained habits like this takes time.

Do you have a favorite technique for dealing with judgment? Leave a comment–or come join the Facebook group and discuss there.

(Note: the link to the book is an affiliate link.)

The Constant Tension of Creativity (A love letter)

Hey: have you joined the Prolific and Prosperous Facebook group yet? Please do–we’re starting to have some good discussions over there.  Just go here and ask to join and I’ll approve you.  Unless you’re a serial killer. But you’re not, are you?

So, creativity has connotations with warm, fuzzy, wild, free—all positive, right?  And tension is conflict, stress, danger—all negative.  Amiright?  But they are linked. Oh, are they ever linked.  We may prefer to think of creativity as our safe haven, our happy place—and it is, for sure.  But there’s also a dark side to it.

Okay, that sounds a bit overly dramatic and it probably is.  But drama is intricately linked to both tension and creativity so bear with me.

Research has shown that individuals with highly creative aspects may fall prey to some undesirable traits as well. They may be narcissistic. (Who, me? The most beautiful, brilliant, smart and funny human in the world? Nah.)  And, probably because of their ability to, say, make up great stories, they may be chronic liars. Then there’s the creative types who are maladapted socially due to their tendency to burst out saying inappropriate things.  (That’s part and parcel of the creative process—going against the grain.) And all of these add up to creative tension.

And there’s the tension that comes from waiting, as for instance when you have a project out on submission. Agent, editor, critique group, beta readers—waiting to hear their judgement of your work can be excruciating— constant creative tension involving checking the email obsessively ten times an hour. (I know whereof I speak—I’m waiting to hear my agent’s verdict on the latest rewrite of my novel.)

Your brain being creative

But it’s not even those aspects I’m thinking of when I talk about the constant tension of creativity.  I’m talking about its constant, incessant, pull. When you are a creative person you’re always aware of your project calling to you: I should be writing. With every minute, every breath, you’re finagling when you can get back to your WIP, or pondering how to write the next scene—even though to the outer world it looks like you are sitting in a sales meeting pondering the latest sales figures.

This constant tug from our creative sides creates a delicate tension that pulls us through our days.  And, it can be harnessed for our highest good.  Because constant tension is like a pesky gnat flying around your head when you’re sitting outside drinking a glass of nice, cold, white wine in summer.  You swat at it and it returns, again and again, until you finally get your ass up and do something about it—like move inside or kill the damn bug once and for all.  Do the work and quit kvetching about it already, or quit calling yourself a writer.

Ouch.  Yet creative tension can help you.

Because here’s a news flash, creative tension can help you do that, because it is actually a thing. (I thought I made it up, but alas, greater minds have walked this path already.) It’s about your vision for the work (a finished novel, say) and the current reality of it (two chapters written).  This creates the delicate tension whereof I speak. What happens is this: the brain seeks to preserve energy but when faced with the gap between vision and reality, more energy is actually released, giving you the oomph to get the project done.

And so that’s the good news.  This creative tension is actually good for our writing practices. Never mind that sometimes I wish I could wake up and not be constantly thinking about my WIP—either that I should be working on it, or something about the story.  But this hasn’t happened in a gazillion years. And, in truth, I’m grateful for it. Because how boring would life be without this creative tension?

What kind of creative tension do you experience? Leave a comment and tell me.  Or head on over to the Prolific and Prosperous Writers Facebook page and we’ll chat about it there.

Oh, and by the way–I have a couple spots open on my coaching roster if you need help with any aspect of your writing. My current services page is crap so if you’re interested just shoot me an email at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com.

On Seeking Writing Community

Writers are introverts, for the most part. We sit in a room by ourselves (except for all the fictional characters crowding our heads) working and we like it. (At my husband’s work Christmas party this year, I had a long drunken conversation with a woman who couldn’t imagine actually wanting to sit down to write. She was amazed I really, truly, liked doing it.)

And yet, because of the very nature of it, the writing life can be lonely.  I am blessed to have fifty gazillion people in my life–husband, kids, grandchildren, friends–but most of them are like the woman at the Christmas party.  They can’t quite figure out why I do what I do.  So  I also count myself blessed to have a group of close writing friends, both local and online, and I treasure them for the relief of being able to be fully myself with them.

But for some reason I have shied away from joining other groups that would offer community.  I belong to several Facebook groups devoted to writing (besides my own, which is selfishly my favorite) and I rarely comment in them.  I’ve belonged to the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association nearly since its inception, but I’m not terribly active in it.  And I’ve long heard great things about the Romance Writer’s of America, but I’ve never managed to join it.

We’ve got a couple of great local groups here in Portland, too–Willamette Writers and Oregon Writer’s Colony. I was very active in the former, including several stints on the board, back when it was more of a club and I was more of a person interested in writing, and I used to be involved with OWC as well.  But lately? Not so much.

I think this is because when I have extra time, I want to spend it writing, not thinking about writing or talking about it, or planning an event around it. (This excludes all my teaching, locally and in France, which I love.) I got burned out on volunteering around writing groups all those years ago when I was active.

As for Facebook groups–same thing. Who wants to spend tons of time commenting on writing when they should be doing the actual work? Said the woman who runs her own Facebook group devoted to writing. So, yeah, I think it is something that goes a little deeper than the tired old time excuse. I think–wait for it–it has to do with another tired old trope, that of the fear of being seen. 

It’s a weird fear, really. I’m widely published and have been blogging for almost eleven years. I’m active on Instagram and Twitter.  But Facebook for some reason always makes me feel exposed in a way that other media sites doesn’t. Which is how I know what the fear is. And Facebook groups–those lovely small clubs where all members are devoted to the same passion–feel much safer to me.

I should have posted a disclaimer to all my clients and students, current and former, before I wrote all this. Because I am forever harping on them to up their social media game and develop their platforms.   And now that I’ve publicly outed myself for my fear of being seen, I think I can be a bit more sympathetic when they cringe at my talk of platforms.

But I have made progress  lately myself. I joined RWA this week, and re-upped my membership in WFWA.  I joined a new Facebook group that is attached to a Patreon and is still very small–and I’m finding it inspiring. (Okay, okay, its only been one day.)

I guess what’s important to remember–and the actual point of this post–is that finding some kind of community of your writing peers is important.  It can be local, or online, or even global for that matter.  The cool thing about our current society is that there’s an option for everyone, from the totally introverted to the most gregarious extrovert.

Okay, thanks for going along on the journey of this post today, as I figured out what it was really all about.  And please, please, please do tell–how do you find writing community? Leave a comment!

Photos from everystockphoto.com.