I live in Texas, so when we do summer yard work it means high temperatures, mosquitoes, and all the luxury of 100% humidity. Yet, last time I was working in a yard, I realized I was having fun. Not because of the weather (it was over 105 degrees that day) nor the activity (dropping mulch is stinky on the best of days). It was the company during the time I was working. Working with others can give you a safe haven of those that understand.
As an author, I have the same experience with writing. Though writing trumps yard work any day of the week, it’s still work. I struggle with passive verbs, tenses, paragraph alignment, spelling mistakes and all the other pitfalls of writing. Like many other writers, I read my unedited works and cringe a little inside, then begin polishing and editing before polishing some more. And the nature of the human mind, while amazing, doesn’t help. An author ~knows~ how the story is supposed to read. She is the one who created it. So if there is a typo, our brains will probably fix it. Self-editing is the first wall to overcome. We can even use technology, such as automated reading software.
But in my experience, my deepest growth as a writer derives from my writers group. Not only can they tell me if I used the incorrect ‘there, their, or they’re’ (That’s what I paid Microsoft big bucks for, right?), but they can tell me if a character is acting out of his/her normal pattern/motivations, if readers become lost at a critical scene because of my phrasing, and if I said a paragraph ago that it’s sunset and all of a sudden my characters are eating breakfast.
A good group will be a balance. Do they challenge/push you to the edge of comfort without going too far? Do they recommend? Do they change your voice in their recommendations? The deadlines, editing sessions, and critiques I found within my group are precious to my path of growth. And anything that is growing is less likely to wither.
The story in our head makes us laugh, cry, cringe, and hope. We taste the poison; smell the perfume, hear the call for help. With limitless words on our pallet, the goal is to transfer those images and emotions to the minds of others. Just because the words make sense to us (remember, the pictures are already in our minds, how could the words be muddled or confusing…?) doesn’t mean they convey properly to others. That’s where the village comes in to make sure we don’t lose anything in the translation. Mine is an amazing group of talented writers. Everyone has a village. If you write, others will write something similar. It’s called genre. Find your genre and your village.
Natasha Storfer is a graduate of Texas A&M’s College of Engineering. After years of working within the limitations imposed by the laws of science, she turned to fiction as an outlet for imagination and creativity. Her writing includes fantasy, sci-fi, cyber-punk, and mystery.