On Being An Introverted Writer, by Lia Weston
It has taken many years for me to finally warm to the concept of joining a writer’s group.
I had always thought that writing, by its nature, was a solitary pursuit. The closest I came to interacting with other people during it was asking for a flat white if I was lucky enough to be writing in a cafe. (Ah, the seductive and productive lull of other people’s humdrum noise is so soothing to the soul, so useful for character studies and so good at creating crippling caffeine addiction issues.)
When my first novel was due to be released, I was thrust into a new world, where I had to talk to people about the stuff I had always done in secret. (Well, some of the stuff, anyway. Nobody knows where the bodies are buried.) Many people assumed I was in a writing group, which I found surprising. None of my friends were writers. My best friend is a lino cut artist. My husband shuns books altogether. (You should see what kind of reaction that admission gets. It’s like saying he kicks puppies.)
Realising that speaking to others would be important at some point when my novel debuted, I joined the South Australian Writers’ Centre. I had assumed that you needed to be published or well-connected or adept with a beret and cigarette holder to be a member, so the fact that they were so welcoming and generous was a bit of a shock. If only I’d known this earlier. (This does not mean, however, that I do not still cling to the walls during the Christmas party. I have become extremely good at feigning interest in door frames or posters of books I have no intention of reading.)
When meeting other writers at the SAWC, it came as a welcome shock to talk to people who knew exactly what I meant about wrestling with story structure that refused to behave, or the constant irritation of being interrupted by people who didn’t understand that a thought diverted is usually a thought lost.
Emboldened by my experience, I finally bit the bullet and joined a writers’ group. The first meeting was all going swimmingly until I realised that not only were you supposed to bring along a piece of your own writing, you were also supposed to read it out.
Yes. Out loud. To others. Your own stuff.
Fellow introverts will understand the dawning horror I felt as I sat there, eyeing both the biscuit tin and the door and wondering if it would be bad form to do a runner on my first visit. Another member kindly told me that they had customisable levels of feedback. (Could I ask for a ‘susceptible to crying jags’ level?)
When it came my turn to read, I took a deep breath, turned bright red, and ploughed through with all the style and grace of someone staggering out of a strip club at 3am. But guess what? They were nice to me anyway. The feedback was incisive and they picked up points I could never have found on my own. “There’s something to this,” I thought, and celebrated with another visit to the biscuit tin.
As writers, we must brave the things that make us uncomfortable. It’s excellent experience to stretch ourselves and experience something that may terrify us.
After all, if it goes horribly wrong, it’s great material for the next story.
Lia Weston’s author website: www.liaweston.com
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