I’m in Balzac’s Coffee at the Toronto Reference Library for the first meeting of the Shut Up and Write group. I hoped to have my first cup of Atwood Blend to infuse me with with writing genius, but Atwood isn’t on tap.
I look down the table at my interesting group of fellow wordsmiths, only one of whom I know: queer, straight, young, not so young, poets, novelists, playwrights. At this moment, it doesn’t matter that I am going through a period of discontent within my own small corner of the writing world. Today I am part of something, with others like me in at least one aspect of their lives: the desire to communicate through the written word.
It is what started to percolate inside me as I helped put together Canadian Lesfic. On CL I am collaborating with five women I’ve never met, never spoken to outside of emails. Apart from our periodic blog contributions, our work is focused on the communal project that will benefit us and other writers. Despite the differences in the two group experiences, the similarity of the impact on me is amazing.
It’s a good idea to break out of the cocoon, and communicate through spoken words, ideas and activities that will help you grow as a writer. And it’s important to do these things with others who are also involved in the act of creating. In the end, that sense of community benefits us all, readers as well as writers.
In Canada it’s too easy for a writer, or any creator, to be swallowed up by the feeling of isolation. Just as it’s important for lesbians and others in the queer community, or any minority or marginalized group to see themselves represented in literature and other art forms, it’s important for us, the creators, to see our reflections from time to time. When published works aren’t enough to keep you going. When the solitude is too much, or the lack of financial reward gets you down. When lack of support from the establishment makes you question your value. Sometimes all it takes is looking at the young man who is sitting across from you struggling to improve a poem.
Today that young man is my reflection. I didn’t get my cup of Atwood Blend coffee. What I did get was a shot in the arm, a kick in the butt, a pat on the back. For a while at least, I won’t feel like I’m hopelessly and pointlessly floundering around in the quagmire of my own ideas.
I will come back to the group. Maybe I’ll be able to have a cup of Atwood Blend coffee next time. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. I know I’ll be getting something more important.