Writing is a solitary activity as we all know. It’s not something you can do with someone else. Even writing collaborators do their writing separately and then bring it together. I can’t imagine many circumstances where they could sit down and write together.
This gives people the impression that writers must be loners, grafting away in an attic or even the coal shed, with little human contact. Nothing could be further from the truth. Writing fiction is about people. Inspiration comes from everyday interaction with them, even on the most banal level, like buying bread.
We also write for people. I don’t believe there are many writers who write purely for their own satisfaction. We all want an audience, even if it’s only a handful of people, and we await their reaction with trepidation.
Joining Writers Abroad a couple of years ago coincided with starting to write fiction again after a gap of decades. Without the constant encouragement, criticism and inspiration I get here, I doubt if I would have continued.
For me, getting involved in other activities is also a source of inspiration. Starting work a few months ago at our local médiathèque, or library, is feeding into my writing. It has done wonders for my French. It has also introduced me to new friends and fresh literary experiences. In theory, I work one morning per week. In practice, it’s more since so many activities – in French and English – are associated with the library.
The idea of joining a reading group has never particularly appealed to me. But I find exchanging books and ideas about them with a like-minded person more interesting. Mandy, whom I met through the library, has introduced me to new authors who have given me writing ideas. For example, Andrew Taylor’s The American Boy is set in England in 1819. He writes in first person POV and sustains the period voice very well. This inspired me to write a period piece, ‘Bert Flow’s Parrot’, which I posted up here.
We also hold occasional author readings, both in English and French. Yesterday, local English novelist Jacqueline Yallop talked to us about her writing and read excerpts from her work, including Obedience, set in the area. (Incidentally, she writes in their woodshed, except when it’s too cold). I was relieved to hear that she writes without a detailed plan. This involves a lot of subsequent re-drafting but that method works for her. Glad I’m not the only one who has a sketchy road map.
Some of the other activities I’m involved in, such as helping to restore a ruined chapel and singing in a choir also provide plenty of material for my work. I might not use it all immediately but it gets filed away in my brain and dusted off as and when.
So, far from constraining my writing time, I find these activities short-circuit it by giving me ideas and material. I sometimes complain about being too busy. But I suspect that my output would be no greater if I just sat in front of the computer all day waiting for the muse. It might even be less.
Does engaging in other activities stimulate your writing?