Writing, by and large, is a solitary endeavor. Even coffee-drinking wordsmiths hunched over their laptops in public places exist in a twilight realm – physically present amidst the chatter and frappuccinos, but mentally removed to worlds of their own creation. There are of course many pros to this lack of human connection, but there are also cons which can and do sometimes result in self-doubt, waning motivation, and in the worst case scenario abandonment of the creative project.
Many people combat these demons through writing groups, or less formal get-togethers with other authors. Sometimes all it takes is an afternoon of sharing war stories to help you feel less alone and get back on track with a manuscript.
There are also less personal routes to affirmation. In Canada the arts continue to exist thanks in part to funding from government and other organizations. Not only do theatres, dance companies, art galleries, publishers and musical ensembles benefit from this tradition, but also individual creators and performers who can apply for assistance in bringing a project to fruition. Although the money itself is significant in helping to pay for materials, activities, or creative time, getting that pat on the back from the jurors means perhaps even more.
I have been working intermittently on a manuscript for many years, devoting more and more time to it over the last eighteen months. Although things have been progressing well, I was still harbouring doubts that a book would ever result. For all I knew the whole thing might be nothing more than a really bad idea. I had described it to a few people who responded favourably, but I was still feeling insecure. Then I applied for and received a research grant, which will enable me to spend a month in England. Suddenly my lack of confidence began to recede, and in its place grew anticipation of success.
Another pat on my back occurred on May 2. All across Canada readers, writers and booksellers were celebrating Authors for Indies Day. 700 authors spent time at 120 independent bookstores schmoozing with readers, hand selling books, and doing readings. Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto asked me to take part, and I’m happy that I did. It forced me to step outside my head and connect, and I felt less alone. Even though e-readers are becoming more popular every day, bricks and mortar bookstores are still so important for the literary world. If you haven’t been to one lately, make a point of going. You won’t regret it.
The best validation for authors, of course, always comes from readers. Although there are people who write solely for themselves, those of us who don’t are in a kind of partnership with readers. We writers have something that we want to say, something that we feel is important enough to merit our time and energy. We craft the piece with whatever skill we have, and we send it out into the world, hoping it will ultimately find an appreciative audience. When we hear from that audience, it’s the pat we’ve been waiting for.
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