I spend a lot of time alone. I work from home and I write which we all know is a solitary pursuit. That's hours spent not hearing other people's voices or even my own. Except on paper.
I enjoy the quiet. Sometimes. Other times I'm simply sick of myself and my thoughts. Bruce Springsteen, in "Dancing in the Dark," expressed this well--"I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face."
Then again, it is winter (my least favorite season) and we've had record snows so I'm also suffering from some serious get-me-outta-here cabin fever. But, I digress.
That's where having a critique group really helps. Every other week we meet to talk about writing, our lives and each other's work-in-progress. And we laugh. A lot. I mean hysterical, BWA-HA-HA laughing that draws attention. We've had several strangers say things like "What's so funny?" or "What are you having?" or "Cheer up!" Of course, we can't really explain what's funny. To explain it takes away the humor, the perfect synchronization of the moment and the people involved.
Being in a critique group gives me a sense of community. We are peers with the same problems and joys. We push each other to set goals, keep growing and keep changing. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We inspire one another, encourage one another and challenge one another. We do things that are uncomfortable.
I have a magnet with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that says, "Do one thing every day that scares you." I like that. Because a lot of things associated with writing can be scary--blank pages, query letters, submitting to the critique group and contacting an editor or agent. Wondering as you send it if it is any good or just plain crap. But when I do scary things, I'm not bored. And, if you think about it, boredom with your life is the most frightening thing of them all.
I used to be a risk-taker. Then, wave after wave of adulthood rolled over me and gradually I only did the things that I was "supposed" to do. I stopped pushing the envelope. My writing and I stayed in our own safe little cocoon, forced into a dark corner by responsibilities and crises. Being a part of a good critique group has helped me remember that it doesn't have to be this way. What we offer each other is the kick in the butt and the safety net and a lot of times both are necessary.
Writing is a solitary pursuit. But it doesn't have to be a lonely one. And, thanks to my dear friends, it isn't.