Quills of a Feather Should Flock Together

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by Ane Mulligan

I’m having dinner in a restaurant with the hubs and friends, when a snippet of a conversation at the table behind me catches my attention. Tuning out my friends’ chatter, I lean back in my seat to get closer.

A female voice hints at panic. “I left my camera in the taxi.”

It sparks a “what if” moment. What if the film contained photos of a hidden treasure? I glaze over as a scene begins to play out inside my head, and I plot the demise of an antiques dealer’s competition. Who would my heroine be? And her sidekick-gotta have a quirky sidekick. I grab a napkin and start making notes.

“Ane? Earth to Ane…”

I blink. My friends shake their heads, and when I try to explain, they look at me like I’ve gone around the bend. They don’t hyperventilate over mere words, and not one of them has characters talking inside their heads.

Before you call for an exorcist, these “voices” are the stories God gives a writer. But the gift of a creative mind comes wrapped in idiosyncrasies and beautifully tied with oddities. Everything you see and hear becomes a story. Try explaining that to your spouse or best friend. No one but another writer understands those voices.

By necessity, a writer’s life is singular. You have to sequester yourself with your characters to get the manuscript written. But when you’ve finished and come up for air, what then? With whom can you share the joy of its creation? Who’s interested in hearing about the great metaphor you used, or how you set the parable of the talents in a twenty-first century college town?

Whether it’s scripts or books, writing is a lonely life-except of course, for the voices. Your family and friends, unless they’re writers, won’t understand you. I wouldn’t waste much time trying, just accept it. So where do you find other writers who will share all your foibles?

Writer’s groups.

If you’re writing to publish, a critique group is essential. There are a number of great ones online, and you might even find a local, in-person crit group. A critique group will help you grow in your craft.

While your Aunt Mary thinks your writing is brilliant, unless she’s an editor, I wouldn’t give much credence to her opinion. Even your friends think you’re wonderful. Get the opinion of other writers. We’re too close to our own work to see its flaws. A crit group will hone your writing, making it shine. Develop a thick skin and consider the suggested changes. Use those that profit your manuscript.

A professional writers group like ACFW is the best place to learn the business of writing and publishing. Be sure you get to ACFW’s conference. The networks you develop there are invaluable for your future.

The important thing is to connect. As writers, we need community.

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. Sr. editor of Novel Rocket, she’s a published playwright, humor columnist, 3-time Genesis finalist, a mom and grandmother. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her husband and one very large dog.

Comments 0

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Right now I’m finding a whole host of writers online through blogging and I’m so thankful for every single one. These people speak the same language as me and we can relate down to the very core of our beings. It’s vital to be involved with other writers.

  2. Ane,

    A great and funny post. Can I identify with your restaurant experience and how!

    The difference is that although my husband is an engineer by training and a tech writer by trade, he DOES understand my personal flights of fancy. It’s been a long, long lesson, but if I wander off during a conversation, I’ve learned to say, “I went off somewhere. Could you repeat that?” and he does. We often talk about characters, situations and entire stories as though they were real, so God has indeed blessed me with a unique partner.

    Writers’ groups are still invaluable, though. So is my brainstorming partner. I wouldn’t have near as much fun writing without them.

    Nor would I be anywhere close to as skilled as I am now (and I’m not that good, yet) without their kind words of encouragement and their words of critique.

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