I was a member of a writing group for a short time. Like most writing groups, we shared our stories and some wine, and went around the room critiquing those stories. We all wanted to tell the best story we could possibly tell, and we were all there to help and support one another in this otherwise lonely endeavor. These groups have become a staple of the ever-growing writing community. Sometimes these groups are helpful to the members, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they help the writers better understand what they have created, and sometimes they become contentious ego-fests. Either way, the goal should be the same – to help the storytellers tell the best story possible. We may not agree on what a good story is or isn’t, but we all agree that we want the stories we read and write to be as interesting and funny and profound as they can possibly be.
I started Author and this column and now the Author’s Roundtable because I wanted to bring the same level of attention to the stories we tell about writing and publishing as we bring to the stories we offer to our critique groups. While writers can be meticulous in crafting the stories they send to magazines and agents and editors, they can be quite sloppy in the stories they tell about talent and intelligence and luck and rejection. These stories deserve the exact same scrutiny. These stories deserve just as much rewriting, and have just as many darlings that ought to be killed.
I would never walk into a bookstore and pull a book at random and read it cover-to-cover whether I liked it or not. To read that book is to live that book, to surrender my immeasurably powerful imagination to its reality. The stories I tell myself about writing and publishing are no different. To tell myself a story is to live it, to experience whatever limitations or cruelty or fairness or kindness it describes. My life is not some book pulled at random from the universe; it is a story I am telling myself moment by moment, a story I can write and rewrite as long as I remember that I am the one writing it.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.