Thursday, 25 July 2013

No Conferring - Tamsyn Murray

Picture the scene: a lone figure hunches over a keyboard, tapping furiously at the keys. Occasionally, they might look up and gaze into the middle-distance (or at the ceiling), then type some more. Their expression may be one of pure joy or desperate misery or, quite often, the gentle frown of someone who can't quite recall when they last ate or drank. They cannot sleep, cannot rest, until they have finished their story and must have silence in order to do so. Writer, thy name is solitude.

That's the traditional view, and it's certainly the one some publishing professionals still seem to hold. I've heard several tales from fellow writers recently which suggest that some editors\agents\big cheeses actively discourage their authors from talking to other writers about anything. A conspiracy theorist might suggest that some of them* don't want us talking to each other, in case we compare notes and say, 'Hang on a minute...'

But actually, this post isn't about what editors and agents think about writers communicating with each other and getting out and about - it's about what you and I think of it. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I go to the Romantic Novelists' Association conference each year, in spite of the fact that I don't necessarily consider myself a writer of romance. But that doesn't matter; what I go for is the platinum advice and writing tips being shared (which apply no matter what it is you write) and to catch up with friends. And if a certain amount of note-sharing goes on about our experiences, that's fine too. What I do know is that I never fail to come away feeling inspired and re-energised.

It's not all writing, writing, writing - what more could you want to take away from a writing conference than your very own Film-Star-Onna-Wine-Glass? (see Nicola Morgan's post on diversification)

I'm probably preaching to the converted here but it's been something of a light bulb moment for me to realise that writing doesn't always have to be a solitary craft. OK, so the actual business of getting the words down probably works best when you're not in a room full of interesting and funny people with fascinating anecdotes to share but I've come to see getting together with other authors is both inspirational and educational. In fact, it's critical. You don't have to go a conference, it could be a tweet up or a launch or any number of things involving drink. I found going to a session on writing for television at Chipping Norton Litfest to be hugely useful earlier this year, because it made me look at how I can make my dialogue work harder and say more with fewer words. And a reading I did at Barnet Waterstones a few months ago led me to have coffee afterwards with the lovely Abi Longstaff and we had a fab chat about what we were doing writing-wise that reassured me enormously.

I guess what I am trying to say is that we shouldn't get caught up in the idea that writers are solitary beings and that writing is a lonely business. It can be, of course, especially if you don't shower for several days and your family refuse to approach you downwind. But if you make the effort to get out there, you'll be rewarded. Just remember to change out of your dressing gown first.

*Can I just say here that my editor and agent are not like this at all and are both completely lovely? Of course I don't mean them. Thank you.


Nicola Morgan said...

Tamsyn (I'm guessing it's you!) - you need to put your name in the title of your post so we can see it's you :)

But, yes, you are right. We are not alone. Hooray!

Tam said...

I was just testing you, Nicola ;)

Something I didn’t mention is social media, which you are obviously an expert on. While I sometimes despair of the time I devote to Things That Are Not Writing, I wonder how writers who aren't online manage. They must miss so much and not only what I dreamed about last night. It really is our water cooler.

Nicola Morgan said...