Citizens of the writing nation

Tribal gathering: SIWC banquet 2012

Silk’s Post #6  My epiphany at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference over the weekend was that I’m now a citizen of three nations: the United States, where I was born; Canada, where I live; and the Writing Nation, where my heart lies.

Writers are a hidden nation, scattered across landscapes and borders, practising our rites of passage in solitary spaces, physical and mental. We seem normal and unremarkable, for the most part, pursuing our invisible craft alone, yet in plain sight of the rest of the world.

There are usually few outward signs that reveal writers’ rich interior lives to the non-writers we live amongst. The evidence of what we’ve been up to attracts attention only rarely, the most remarkable of those occasions being the book launches of the modest percentage of writers who actually publish. It sounds like a lonesome life, doesn’t it? This self-exile from the mainstream, spending days or months or years writing words that may or may not ever be widely shared.

But this writing nation is connected by a remarkable network of intellectual and emotional sinew. We create our own small cells – writing or critique groups like our 5 Writers. We reach out to each other in cyberspace through myriad social media links and online interest groups like the Fiction Writers Guild on LinkedIn. We organize ourselves in national and international associations like the Mystery Writers and Romance Writers groups. We meet and cross-pollinate at retreats put on by the exploding writers’ workshops industry. And we come together for the ritual of writers’ conferences, where the various writers’ tribes – mystery, thriller, romance, sci-fi, fantasy and the like – convene to learn, pitch, connect and celebrate the writing life.

Tribal icon: our group mascot “Sweetie”

It was my seventh year attending the SIWC, but the first year I could say I’ve actually written a book. Written the words “The End”. The first year I’ve had a book in rewrite instead of unfinished. The first year I didn’t mentally cringe when someone asked me what I’ve written.

Okay, the first few years I was just flirting with being a writer of fiction. I was still running a very demanding business where I was writing advertising, websites, promotional materials, strategies, proposals and other non-fiction all day long. Until about three years ago, my relationship with writing fiction was all just foreplay.

Then in the spring of 2010, I was invited to join the critique group now known as 5 Writers. Now I was having a serious affair with the writing life. Like most affairs, it was a transporting experience, punctuated by thrilling spikes of elation, gut-wrenching fears, and immobilizing self-doubts. Two years later, my patient and persistent writing friends had pushed, prodded, cajoled, cheered and pummelled me towards a completed first draft of my first book.

That sealed the deal for me. I took my vows and married into the vast family of writers for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer. I joined the writing nation. I’m a full citizen, not a visitor anymore.

And now you’ll never get rid of me.

Tribal ritual: 5 Writers catch some lounge time at SIWC

4 thoughts on “Citizens of the writing nation

  1. Welcome! But I suspect that you were a citizen long before you actually finished the book. Non citizens visit and flirt, have short affairs and then leave, usually long before “The End” gets written. It just took that experience to make you realize you always have been a writer.

  2. It was a pleasure to meet The Five at the conference. It was my first year and the first time I would meet my internet writing critique group. We are a nation held together by our diversity. We write out of passion for the craft, for the telling of a story, and for the camaraderie of other writers. Sharing our passion only enhanced the weekend experience.

    Hope to meet again,
    Jude Wiesner

    • Enjoyed meeting you too Jude! One thing SIWC seems to prove, beyond doubt, is that the writing nation is a small world. I’m sure our paths will cross again. Good luck with your writing and thanks for following our blog!

      Cheers, Silk

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