For me, life is all about stories. I want to hear them. I want to read them. I want to tell and write them. We all carry stories around with us. I am eternally curious (observant, snoopy, inquiring) about the stories belonging to other people. I love to find them out, hear them out, but I don’t gossip. And I was bred to be a polite creature, so I do respect boundaries.
But oh how I love it when others volunteer their stories. Their histories, their loves, their opinions, their reactions to what the world is dishing out. Their incredible pets and how smart they are. How they fall asleep over their e-readers. Hey, that could be me.
So, you can imagine how tough it was for me to stay sensitive to, and respect, the varying needs for quiet working time that my fellow writers had when we spent three full days living and writing together on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Well, we wrote when we could drag our eyes away from the incredible lake.
Curiosity about my fellow writers was only partly a work avoidance urge. Because we did work, long and hard. I got a lot done, huzza for me! And I did let others work, too. There’s a special energy that flows when you know those around you are also in the throes of writing. It’s motivating. It gets healthy competitive juices flowing. You don’t want to be the only one to report little or no progress!
When work time was over I enjoyed getting acquainted with these fascinating women (all writers are fascinating by nature, I believe.) I got to hear some of their personal histories, in bits, and about their kids or pets, their hobbies, their day jobs. About their favorite books, favorite movies, favorite beers, favorite places, favorite foods. We bonded over smoked fish and selected cheeses.
Over drinks one night we played the game Name Your Favorite Five. We started with favorite film and T.V. heroes. Favorite female film and T.V. stars and heroines. Then favorite heroes from books we’ve read. Favorite books, of course. We all had trouble sticking to the limit of five. We could have gone on and on, but time was short and our glasses empty. Work called.
The best stories of all came out when we agreed to read to each other one evening from our Works in Progress, first five pages, and share feedback. Those were the stories that really mattered. The ones that sprang from heart, imagination and tongues. It was humbling and incredibly invigorating. I felt honored to hear and be heard.
My recommendation: find yourself a group of fascinating writers with whom you can spend quality listening time. You’ll write better.