Writing + Socializing (turns out we can do both)

I have a feeling a lot of my posts are going to begin with some variation of “It’s been a while!” I’m a little ashamed of how long I’ve put this off (especially since I made a posting schedule and everything.)

But! Part of the reason I haven’t been posting here is because I have been working hard on other things. The past few weeks have been huge for me in terms of releasing creativity, committing to work, and actually finishing projects.  

Here’s what I’ve been up to since I last posted:

  • I submitted an essay to a literary magazine for consideration. This was a big deal to me not only because it required me to write to a deadline (shocker!), but it also gave me a chance to find a deeper sense of peace about a painful time in my life. The prompt was something like “how do you use art to process mental health issues?” I felt compelled to write a piece about my experiences with social anxiety and panic. The process reminded me of why I love creative nonfiction so much; it gave me a sense of order and mastery about things that, in reality, don’t make much sense at all. Now I’m awaiting feedback from the editors. I’m (probably) prepared for a rejection, but either way I hope they are able to give some detail in their feedback. That way I have some direction in how to improve going forward.
  • Songwriting has taken up an unexpectedly huge part of my writing time over the past few weeks. I’m not sure how this happened; I hadn’t thought much about writing songs since I was a preteen pretending to be Taylor Swift (whose writing style I still admire.) But things have started coming together, with a lot of help from my dad who is a veteran songwriter. Maybe an EP sometime in the near future? Who knows? I’m open to anything at this point.
  • I’m having lots of fun on Instagram! I’ve almost reached my first 50 followers. Seeing the experiences of other writers at all levels has been wonderful, and I appreciate the sense of camaraderie.  

Speaking of camaraderie, I think it’s necessary for me to say that I could not survive on this creative journey alone. As wonderful as all this writing has been, it does have its moments of loneliness. Over the past few years I have really struggled with the solitude of it all. Creating something, working so hard to shape it into something I’m proud of, and then having no one to talk to about it…those experiences left me feeling isolated.

One way I’ve counteracted this is to find like-minded people on social media. This is actually how I met my friend Marissa, who I now consider my beta reader/kindred spirit/little sister. She is pursuing an MFA in creative writing, which seems very fancy to me and is going to be an amazing accomplishment for her. She and I met during our fanfiction days, when we were so irate about the direction our favorite show was going that we wrote a fix-it fic together. (For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, never fear! I’m planning to do a series about fanfiction soon, in which I’ll explain some of the unique terms.) We have been connected at the brain ever since. I’ve shared my writing with her at every stage, even when the drafts were at their most garbage quality, and have never once regretted it.

Part of the reason this post has taken me so long to finish is that I’m finding it difficult to explain the pure relief that comes with finding a beta who truly understands the way I work. Marissa and I started our friendship by collaborating on a project. You can’t do that with someone and not have a sense of who they are as a creator, what their voice is, and what they want to say. She probably knows my voice better than I do at this point. I don’t feel alone while writing anymore. And it’s incredible.

The image of a reclusive writer hits a sore spot for me. More and more, I’m thinking that was a lot of the reason why I never wanted to identify myself as a writer. I thought everyone would see me as the “hermit” I’d been warned against becoming. But I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be that kind of life at all. Yes, writing requires a lot of time to be alone with yourself and your work. But good work also requires other eyes and voices; at least, it does for me. Becoming friends with Marissa has shown me that writing can help me create relationships, not just cut me off from them.

I would still enjoy having more people in my life (that I could talk with in person) that share this interest. Part of my reasoning behind this blog was so I could share it with my friends and family, to show them who I really am (as dramatic as that sounds.) That hasn’t happened yet. I don’t trust them yet–or maybe I don’t trust myself to handle feeling vulnerable around them.

But I am slowly challenging myself to open up. I collaborated with my dad to write a song last week. I’ve been telling my coworkers about my plans to write music. And it’s felt nice. But there is nothing like having Marissa in my pocket to really get into the weeds. I can only hope I’ve been as helpful to her as she’s been to me.   

So what advice would I give a fellow writer who is ready to grow? Find a person who sees your vision and is willing to help you polish it. Not only will this help you sharpen your skills, but it will hopefully also give you a unique connection with a fellow human being.

What are your experiences with sharing your process with others? Was it daunting? Exhilarating? Have you found a beta you would trust with absolutely anything? I’d love to hear about it!

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