We all know that vision of an author, that often romaticised one; alone in a panelled room, nothing but you and your words. The tap-tap-tap of the keyboard, and the thrum of ideas and inspiration. Your muse draped on a chaise longue in the corner, a wide window overlooking a beautiful garden. The place where literary magic happens without interruption.
Of course, we all know it’s not like that in reality. In fact, if it is, I already despise you. Leave us now; this post is not for you. What it is in reality is more ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. I wonder how many of us can, honestly, raise our innocent little hand and claim that writing has never left us with murderous intentions.
Sure, we do have those days of beautious creative bounty. The days when we can’t write fast enough to keep up with the unhindered flow of genius. But, more often than not, it’s more a case of coffee, cake, crying, and the slow, inevitable descent into despair and, eventually, unrelenting madness. And my desk doesn’t have a garden view. It has the view of a dreary terraced street somewhere in central England.
One thing I’m sure we can all agree on is this; whether your view is picturesque or apocalyptic, the emotional journey of a writer is a turbulent one. There is the agony of self-doubt. The elation of shiny new ideas. The joy of good reviews, and the sting of bad ones. In any one moment, we can wildly swing from viewing ourselves as the next Dickens, to viewing ourselves as a toddler with a crayon. And it gets no better with fame, or fortune. Your window view may improve, but your inward one remains stubbornly similar.
It’s all too easy for writing to become a solitary endeavour. We can all too easily disappear into our fictional worlds, seeking companionship from our characters. Raising our heads back to reality only when we’re frightened by a sudden noise, or by our empty coffee cups. That cocoon is a cosy one.
Sometimes it feels like our own journey is unique. Not everyone around us understands the creative temperament. Not everyone around us can support us through it, or even put up with it. I pity my husband. It’s not always easy being married to a writer. I’m lucky that he’s always believed in me (moreso than I do in myself), not everyone is that fortunate.
For all his support, for all of his sympathy, he can’t empathise with my highs and lows. He hasn’t experienced them himself. I need my literary sanctuary with people who know exactly how I feel without any need to vocalise it. I need my tribe.
My tribe is amazing. They’re supportive, encouraging, generous with their advice, their experience, and their opinions. They fight the same demons, wrestle with the same unruly muses, bask in the same glories. Whenever I need it, someone will be there with an appropriate meme, a cat GIF, the right words to pull me out of my comfort zone, or a hand to hold through something that scares me.
We can talk about words, and tenses, and POV, and characterisation, and worldbuilding, and good pens, the smell of books, and cover design. We can use jargon words, laugh at our in-jokes. We can be ourselves without raised eyebrows. We can lift one another up, and we understand that we’re not competing. We can discuss mental health, and the future of our world, and the legacy we’ll leave. We can interrupt a conversation to jot down a story idea. We can get excited over the same nerdy things.
Some of them I have never met, and probably never will. Others, I’ve had coffee with, broken bread with, hugged. We’ve had write-ins, and word sprints, video chats, and email exchanges.
I need my tribe, and I hope that they know that. I also hope that they need me. That I’m not just an annoying leech of a tag-along that they tolerate out of sympathy. (I also know that they’ll understand that little paranoia.) Writing doesn’t need to be solitary. It can be a festival. A crowd. It can be a blanket fort with room for two, or ten, or fifty. I need people around me who understand me. I need my tribe.