Thursday, November 11, 2010


Did anyone see Glee this week? I thought it was a really good episode – maybe only one unnecessary song – but I loved the Kurt storyline. Bullying has been very much in the news and not surprising the writers would broach this particular subject with Kurt.

What I loved most about the episode was when Kurt goes to the other school and meets these guys who sing and dance and are cool because of it. He asks the three guys who take him for coffee… “Are you all gay?” Only one is, but still there is that moment of connection. Here in front of Kurt is someone who will understand what he’s going through. Will know how hard it can be sometimes.

I couldn’t help but think it’s like that for me when I’m with other writers. I remember the first time I went to RWA. I was so new and had never had any exposure to other writers. Ever. My editor took me to dinner with a few of her other authors and I was like Kurt…

“Are you all writers?” I thought in that same awed tone.

For the first time here were people who understood what I was talking about. I don’t know if I realized how isolated I was until that happened. Writing is a big part of my life. Always has been. As a kid my parents bought me a Commodore 64 and all I used it for was as a keyboard to write. I had a card table and card chair set up in the basement, my C64, an old TV for a monitor and a printer that after three years of asking for my parents finally bought me for Christmas. And I knew they had no idea why it was so important to me.

“What’s she doing down in that basement?” My dad would forever ask and my mother would just shrug.

They had no idea what I did down there. We didn’t talk about my stories. We didn’t discuss plot points or characters, or strategize a plan to get published. In my family we were athletes, not writers. I was most definitely an outcast in that regard. Now certainly I’m not comparing being a writer to being gay. Writers as far as I know are not socially discriminated against. But for me it was definitely a part of my life that I didn’t get to share with anyone. Meeting other writers at conferences and even in part on the internet through blogs has really been life changing in that regard.

I can tell you all I’m struggling with the final death throes of my WIP and you’ll understand what that means. My assistant at my day job will come in and ask me about a plan of attack for our next electronic claim implementation and my answer will be… “I think there needs to be a little more emotional connection between these characters in Chapter 8.”

Now most of my non-writer friends have come to know me well enough that when I have book on the brain you’re only getting about 45% of the rest of me. But they really don’t “get” it. They don’t know what it’s like to fight this fight with a book. To wonder if you’ve got enough depth, if the plot is both logical and surprising, to worry about language and word choice. They don’t know the fear of sending it out and waiting to see how people will respond.

So while it’s very different as I’ve never faced bullying for being a writer either ... I still take something away from the message in Glee. Connection. We – or at least I - really need it.

“Are you all writers?”


Karen W said...

I hear you. I'll never forget my first RWA conference either. I spent the entire time walking around in awe and shock - kind of like Kurt on Glee the other night.

As I matter of fact, tomorrow I'm totally stepping out of my comfort zone and going to a weekend writing retreat with a bunch of other writers who I don't know. Gulp.

But my muse needs some rejuvinating. And I love the connection. So I'm hopeful.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I found you Steph at my first conference - the two of us standing against the wall at that Duets party!!

So much of your post makes sense to me - my family are all athletes too and for my 8th grade graduation all I wanted was a typewriter - that I actually used to write stories. And my folks are incredibly supportive but sometimes thier uninformed support can be exasperating "when are you going to be on Oprah?"

It's amazing to me how much I DON'T talk about writing with other people in my life. People ask and I tell them and that's it. Like any job, I suppose. But put me around another writer or at a conference - I can talk writing for DAYS.

Molly O'Keefe said...

oh and Karen good luck at the retreat - I think stepping out of the comfort zone is a great way to get some writing mojo...

Stephanie Doyle said...

Karen that sounds awesome. Even just talking to people at the breakfast table at NJRW gave me inspirtation. Different writers doing different types of work. All good. I need to do that more.

And Molly that was my 2nd conference so I was still in just as much awe!

And my family is incredibly supportive too... but they want to know when I'm buying my shore house.

Maureen McGowan said...

I've never really been bullied but I do relate to that "no one understands" thing.

I think connecting with people who share common experiences is so important.

Makes me sad, but I need to hide my writer angst from friends and family with whom I used to share (virtually) everything. They just don't get it and think there's something wrong with me. Well, there is, but that's another topic. ;)

Eileen said...

It's true the non-writers don't always get it, even if they want to try. Interestingly, I think my non-writing friends who are most likely to get it are generally psychologists/therapists. They like to pull apart people's motivations and goals and obstacles as much as we do. I'm not sure what it says about me that I have so many friends who are psychologists and therapists, but there you have it.

That said, there's a guy. He's the dad of another kid that's been on a ton of my kid's soccer teams. He always asks me how the books are going. Which should be nice friendly small talk stuff, but there's something in how he does it that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it's because he stands too close. Or because he seems to want to know my sales numbers and not anything about the creative side.

I also find that you can accidentally hijack a situation when people find out you're an author. While I'm thrilled to meet people who read and want to talk about books, I'm always aware that there are times to deflect attention (like someone else's birthday party, for instance!).

Going to those first writers conferences was a little like finally finding my own tribe, though. So thrilling. I'm sure I probably looked like Kurt standing there with his face shining and that big smile. Well, maybe not quite that cute, but you get the idea.

Maureen McGowan said...

Eileen, I'm sure you were as cute (or cuter) than Kurt. :)

Sinead M said...

Loved the look on Kurt's face, and the connections are so important.
Honestly, those first few conferences were revelations to me. Talking about writing and books and stories in depth was something I'd never done before.

Maureen McGowan said...

I just saw the Glee episode and it was a good one. I hope they do more like that. Along with all the serious stuff, we get Britney's great lines.

Will (?): We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater

Britney: Oh, I've done that before.

Or something like that. Made me snort.

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