finding a community of writers

slc library.JPG
When we were at the Salt Lake City library the other day, we walked past a block of small storefronts before we reached the main entrance. We were on our way to get some food into J before the film meeting, because there are cute little cafes inside the atrium (seriously, how cool is this library? SO COOL). There was a comic book shop and some other shops that I didn’t pay any attention to at all, because I had spotted the words “Writing Center” and I said “Oh my god! A writing center! Can we go in, please? Can we? Is it okay? Do we have time? Do you mind? Can we?” and J said yes, of course, because he is a gentleman.

It’s a small, bright room, with wooden floors and a couch, a couple of computers, and then a long, beautiful polished table set with chairs and a giant library of reference books. It’s a cozy, quiet little place and I fell deeply in love with it before I even knew anything about it. Because it’s a writing center! For the community! Where you write! Communally! It sounded okay to me, so far.

The very pretty lady at the desk was very happy to tell us what they
were all about, and give us brochures and a newsletter and a tour
around the whole space. She told us about workshops and writing
coaching and writing groups and we talked a little bit about the
writing community in the city (there’s a writing community! in the
city!) and about our own writing projects and she was totally cool and
you can work on personal projects with a coach or with a group and drop
by and use the library and write at the table, and they publish books
of workshop writing and it’s generally, all around, pretty cool and
terribly exciting to me.

I graduated from my writing program what, three years ago, now? Two
years, maybe? And after a really intense few semesters, and an
incredibly tense summer in which I finished my novel over the course of
two and a half months, I crashed. I stopped writing entirely. I sent
the book out to a few agents, and got some startlingly positive
responses, and also some really insightful critique–the second half
needs to be revised. They’re right. I wrote it in a month. They’re
totally right, and they wanted to see it when I was finished with
rewrites, these agents, and I have not touched the thing in two years.
I have only recently started to write again: revising short stories, the
beginnings of a nonfiction project. But it is hard to stay accountable
to myself, too easy to let work expand to fill in the time I should be
working on my own things, and not things for other people.
Frustratingly easy to ditch my own projects for someone else’s.

Back when I talked about maybe getting my Ph.D. in creative writing, I was excited by the idea and had so many great and
brilliantly logical reasons why it was such a great idea, but I know the number one reason was exactly what commenter
Courtney so astutely pointed out–I wanted to be forced to write again. I wanted the
accountability. I wanted back what I had in my MFA program. I missed
the community, and I missed the deadlines, and I was willing to go as
far as taking my GRE and tying myself down for four more years to do it.

Frankly, I still kind of love the idea of getting a doctorate degree,
because it sounds kind of fun. I am still thinking about it, keeping it
as a possibility when the time comes to sit down and really figure out
what’s going to happen in my future, the next year, the next five
years. But until then, this, this center, these workshops and groups,
they sound promising. They sound like maybe they might possibly be what I
was looking and hoping for. I am trying to be cautious, here. To
not get overexcited, to pin all my hopes and dreams on one thing, to
not go bouncing off half-cocked the way sometimes I do. But I can’t
help being a little excited.

I’m so sorry, I said to J as we left. I know you’re hungry, and I
didn’t think it would take that long. No no, he said. I was interested!
I’m interested! Really? I said. You really want to take a workshop?
Yes, he said, and we spent the rest of dinner picking out which one we
would choose, while I chattered about how I was going to make that lady
my new best friend and we’d have many writing adventures in which we
wrote about things and had adventures, whee! I might be a little
overexcited. It feels kind of nice.

3 Replies to “finding a community of writers”

  1. Doctorate degrees aren’t fun. Mine sucks. In fact, it sucks so hard right now it defies the laws of physics, and it actually blows.
    And you command a better salary and more respect working as a janitor.
    Then again, maybe it’s different outside the sciences…?

  2. Getting your doctorate is simultaneously the best and worst idea you’ve ever had in your life. My very best highs and my very worst lows have come from working on this damn degree. This is the beginning of my 5th year doing it fulltime. I keep thinking it will be my last.

  3. I just finished a semester of creative writing at my college and I hated every minute of it but now that I’m doing my final I really like the story the teacher had us write and I’m so proud of myself I might actually let someone read it! Maybe.

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