Every year I hang out for August for 2 reasons: 1) It is the time of the year we usually take a few days to go skiing with my family and 2) It is the RWAustralia conference. As a writer, I look forward to the RWA conference every year – it is a place to hang with other people who completely understand the madness that overcomes me and makes me want to write.
No, not just want. Need. It is a heat in my veins, a pressing in my brain, a twitchy feeling in my fingertips that makes me have to sit down at the keyboard and tippy-type the words that have been piling up in my mind to express the characters and stories that build and build there.
Only other writers truly understand this particular madness. Only they really know what I mean when I talk about the characters in my head as if they’re real people, talking to me, pressing me to tell their stories, not leaving me alone until I have. Only a fellow writer understands when I talk about pantsing, and the fact that I sit down to write something and yet the characters often take the words and turn them into something entirely unexpected, and joyful. They understand when I talk about my Muse. They know what I mean when I talk about Hero and Heroine’s journey, 3 act structure, GMC’s (Goals, Motivation and Conflict – c/o Debra Dixon), the black moment, POV, head jumping, character and story arcs and so on. They speak the same language. They have the same, or similar goals. They are my tribe.
Having a tribe is incredibly important when you are doing something as singular and lonely as writing. I didn’t realise this until I joined a writing group. I thought I could do it on my own. I was so very wrong. I am now a member of two writing groups who I discuss the trials and tribulations of being a writer with and help me with the ‘big stuff’ in my writing. I have critique partners who help me with more indepth critiques of my writing. And I have Romance Writers of Australia.
I have made some wonderful friends and great contacts through RWA and continue to meet more and more people every year at the conference – all these wonderful, lovely, mad people who are part of my tribe. It is a time for us to hang loose, have fun, get away from the normal every day stresses of our lives and just concentrate on learning and networking and thinking about our writing. It has become a must for me every year to save up the money and make sure I go. It helps to keep me sane. It helps to inspire me. It fills my well.
When people ask me about what advice I would give to someone starting out on the path I have journeyed down (a path of learning and discovery that never ends) the best advice I could give is to find your tribe – those who think and are driven by the same thing as you. I think this is true for any endeavour – it is made better by sharing it with others who have the same obsession/love as you. But with writing, because it can be so lonely, I think it is even more important. Whether it is a writing group that meets online or face to face, a critique partner or a larger organisation like RWAustralia, I think it is essential for writers to have their tribe.