Monday, October 20, 2008

Nourishing your Muse

Friday is coming! Yay!

No, it isn't that it's the end of the work week that has me so exited. Friday will see me driving (forever, on roads I hate) to Woodbridge, NJ for my annual foray to the NJRW conference.

A writer's gotta do what a writer's gotta do.

NJRW was one of the first conferences I ever attended. I keep going back because I've yet to be disappointed in what it offers, and it offers a great deal more than the agenda you'll see on the website. It offers comradery, understanding, encouragement, friendship, and nourishment for the writer's soul--and muse.

Published and unpublished mix and mingle, talking about a subject only we, as writers, understand. Conversations in the lobby alone include things like: "And then she stabbed him!" and "Well, the sex has to be hot or it's not for me." Or "Well, I'm not sure if I should kill him. If I do, then I have to decide how, but I know it won't be poison--that's a woman's weapon. Maybe I'll throw him off the battlements. That would work."

I can't begin to imagine what the other guests at the hotel must think hearing those snippets. I can, however, report that people passing a cluster of writers often look as if they've found themselves on the wrong side of Alice's looking glass.

Writing isolates us. We write alone with only our characters bearing us company. Most of time, those characters are enough. But not all the time.

I have a wonderful friend who doesn't write, doesn't read romance, and is a cheerleader extraordinaire. She hasn't a clue about my process, but she'll listen. I'll start talking about a character who's giving me fits, and she'll say, "Stop. Is this a REAL person or one of yours?" (Real to me doesn't count.)

As much as I love this friend, as much as she allows me to use her for a sounding board, she really doesn't understand the call of my muse, why I'll spend hours on a paragraph, or work into the dawn when I'm on a roll so, no matter how much she would like to, she often can't help me. I need another writer's take on an editing problem, for info on an editor or agent, and a host of other things.

Writers aren't plentiful where I live. There isn't even an RWA chapter within an hour of the house. Online groups are wonderful, but being overwhelmed by email isn't. Conferences fulfill a need for all writers, but are a necessity for writers who have no immediate support group. While surrounded by others like ourselves, we network, we laugh, we discuss, and we argue. We talk writing until the parched creative gardens within each of us are awash in a refreshing, fulfilling rainshower of new ideas and differing slants.

By the time the weekend is over, we're all ready to sit in solitary splendor (I can dream, can't I?) once again, answering the calls of our individual muses. We have nourished them, and they, too, are ready to get back to work. The blank screen looks like an adventure waiting to happen again, not a forbidding wasteland.

I can't wait.

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