Struggling through feelings of isolation, and knowing that our voices are valued.

This morning, I listened to someone on the radio say that there are only a few great voices in each generation, and admitted that he is not one of them. I thought his statement was sad and discouraging. If there are only a small amount of great voices, who are they? Who gets to decide? And does that discount the work of those who aren’t considered ‘great’? And if you can’t be great yourself, why do you keep on going? And and and…?!

Needless to say, I strongly disagree with his statement. I think it was a senseless thing to say. Those words offer such little hope. And frankly, it seems like the kind of thing someone with little confidence in their own work would say. I missed the beginning of the interview, and only listened to it in bits and pieces, so I’m not sure who it was who was speaking, aside from that it was some dude who had recently (self-?) published a book. After he downgraded countless of voices with his odd sentiment, I sort of stopped listening. I would rather listen to someone who has confidence in their work, or can at least fake it until they really do, and someone who believes in the voices of others as well.

There are thousands of voices I would consider ‘great’, maybe even hundreds of thousands, and into the millions, if only I had access to them. You’ll find them in zines, novels, non-fiction, poetry slams, on the bus and in waiting rooms, in the pages of diaries, scrawled on bathroom stalls and carved into benches. Everywhere, everywhere! It’s just a matter of seeking them out, and of having the guts to use our own voices and tell our own stories. How utterly foolish to claim there are only a few.

On another note…

Writing is solitary work, and it can be difficult not to feel isolated. I recently finished the third draft of my novel, and am about to embark upon the fourth (and what I hope will be the final-ish) draft. How very overwhelming, and exciting as well. When I finally finished writing the current draft, I was positively elated, yet there was nearly no one to tell. I simply sat at my purple desk, tore up a few notes I no longer needed, and admired my great big stack of papers covered with scribbles and notes and reminders in red ink all over the place. I like when my writing becomes a mess like that, it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I tucked the papers back in their drawer and tuned into the local radio station to listen to skits from the 1950’s, and then I scanned my bookshelves and chose something to read, another world to get lost in.

Sometimes I consider starting a writing group. I am aware of only a few in this town, and the one I’d like to attend, held at Out on the Shelf, where I volunteer, takes place while I’m at derby practice, so thus far, I’ve been unable to attend. I’ve been to quite a few writing workshops over the years, and have always had such an amazing experience that it is hard to explain in words (funnily enough, since obviously that’s where the focus is).

Throughout Winter, I read Writing Through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen by Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer, Ph.D. It’s a useful book; it’s about exactly what it says, using writing as a method of healing depression, and it also works as a guide for beginning and/or participating in writing groups for folks with depression (though she gives advice on who would be an appropriate “leader” for the group, my ideal group would not have a leader, since I don’t believe in creating or falling into hierarchies, especially where organizing & creativity are concerned). The writing groups she talks about have more of a focus on listening over offering critique, and while that would certainly be helpful as well, I do also encourage critique, though I can also understand being a tiny delicate flower curled up in a ball of depression and thus unable to handle any kind of critique at all, since I have been that girl.

A writing group could help calm that sensation of isolation that washes over me now and then, but I am not currently in a place where I could organize such a thing; my life is too unpredictable right now to start adding anymore commitments and obligations to my schedule, though I will hopefully be able to do so in the future. I’ve also thought about having a writerly partner-in-crime, someone to go on weekly writer’s dates with, a la the Natalie Goldberg method, whereby we’d meet up at a café for an hour or two, and we would simply write. If one person can’t make it, the other goes anyway, as this is a time set aside once a week for writing and writing only, and you just happen to get the encouragement and company of somebody who ‘gets it’ as well. This is another one of those dreams I’ve got on my to-do list for when I actually have the time. For now, I go on random solo writerly dates, and I am in love with those as well.

What I’d like to know is, do you often feel isolated yourself as a writer? What do you do to combat that feeling? Do you participate in writing groups in your area, or online? What writing projects are you currently working on? What writing-related books and blogs would you recommend?

Greatly and vocally yours,

P.S.: In case you can’t tell, I want my blog to be encouraging, participatory, and inspiring, so if you’ve got anything at all to share, please leave comments! Also, I’m working on an entry with recommendations for writing resources that I have personally found helpful, so stay tuned for that!

P.P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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