Love Letter to Writers

While earning an MFA in Creative Writing, I remember feeling out of place, thinking, “I love to write, I want to write, but I’m not the writer type.” I didn’t want to sit at coffee houses or attend poetry slams and it seemed to me that’s what most writers did. I didn’t enjoy pontificating about literature. I just liked to write.

Much of my attitude was immaturity—believing that people could be grouped so accordingly. And much was fear—thinking I had to fit inside the box, wondering if I could, instead of creating my own.

So instead of becoming a “writer,” I got a few jobs after grad school that could be perceived as writing jobs. I loved these jobs, and they whetted at least part of my writerly appetite. But I remember someone asking me when was the last time I wrote for myself, and I couldn’t remember. Years. This was atypical, as I’d been consistently writing poems and stories since elementary school.

The urge to write never went away. I just ignored it. It came in waves, a physical feeling akin to any craving. It just won’t quit for some people, and I’m one of those people.

While pregnant with my first child, I decided I would stay home. I really believed, and still do, that this was the right decision for me. But looking back at my trajectory, I can see clearly that I was probably, at least partly, finally giving myself permission to write. The Responsible side of me would be taken care of—what is more important and pressing than raising one’s children? Now, the Creative side of me could pursue its dream of writing a book.

In 2011, I joined SheWrites, an online writing community.  It was my first foray into the online world and I was nervous, had never even participated in a chat room and had no idea what the rules were.

The welcome was immediate. Maybe it’s the comfort of writing in semi-anonymity from our couches that allows us to be authentic and open. (The same comfort that allows some lesser people to rip others to shreds online.) But the same was true for the writers I met in person at the Backspace conference. In the writing friendships I have formed, there’s been no pretense. Writers share information, encouragement, and love, I’ve found, and I’m proud to (finally) call myself one of them.

I talked about all this last weekend with a writer-friend whom until then I knew only online. She was visiting Chicago from Kansas for her daughter’s soccer tournament and we planned to meet for dinner. I joked beforehand to my husband that I was going on a blind date. Only, when I walked into the restaurant and Hallie Sawyer called my name, and we hugged and said hello, there was no blind-date awkwardness. No fumbles, no silences. We picked up right where we left off online, and chatted for two hours before we even ordered. Then we talked for an hour more. We discovered our connection extends to her mother, who grew up with a distant cousin of my father’s in the same small Iowa town where my great-grandfather was born and raised.

It took writers to teach me who writers are. The stereotypes do exist—competitive snobs who seem to find no joy in the writing community. I read about them once in a while, I hear stories about them. I’ve just never met one. Mostly, of course, writers are people of all types from all places, sharing with each other a love to tell stories.



26 thoughts on “Love Letter to Writers

  1. Jessica, you nailed it perfectly. Sadly, my first foray into this mystical world of writing I met the ones Hemingway spoke of in the Paris Review – basically he said, fellow writers are not friends you want to keep. I was crushed. After that, it was me and my imaginary friends, which is good and bad. A writer wants to talk about this or that, but the layman isn’t interested (always) in the hunt for the perfect word. After a while, I met a few truly wonderful people who happened to be writers. There are competitive individuals out there, which I don’t understand because there is an audience for all types of writing and even though EVERYONE is writing a book or blogging these days, there are still more readers than writers. So glad you connected with good people.

    • Thanks, Brenda. So true — I’d never known anyone who wrote a book before and once you join the community it seems like everyone in the world is doing it! Can be overwhelming but as you say, there is an audience for everyone. So glad you’ve been able to find good writer friends; and I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, too.

  2. What a great story, Jessica! I’ve felt that same intense kinship with writers both online and in-person. My fellow Portland writers have become some of my best and closest friends. I think we’re the only ones who can truly understand each other’s madness 🙂

    Wonderful post.

  3. What a wonderful post, and so true. I love what you mention about there being no pretense in the writer community. Maybe there are literary snobs out there (okay, I’ve met one, but only one) but the writers who make up an actual community, in the truest sense of the word, are hugely supportive. I’m so glad you and Hallie finally got to meet. I heart her, and hope to meet her one day, too!

  4. Most writers I’ve met in person and online have been fabulous. A few have been a$$hats, but I think that’s true of any group of people. And it’s SO fun meeting an online friend, face to face, I’ve been lucky enough to do it several times – and must look for YOU, my next trip (nothing planned) to Chi-town. Got a niece who lives there, and other family in Illinois and Milwaukee.

  5. Great post and I just love that picture, you two look like you’ve known each other forever! Such great vibes. It is the people we connect with that are all important, supporting and encouraging each other.

  6. Oh man, this made me jealous! Two of my favorite writer friends having dinner together? Fabulous! I’ve met a few online friends (one it turned out, lives around the corner!!), and I’ve talked to a few on skype (Hallie included, love you, Hallie!), and it’s never been awkward at all, so I know exactly what you mean. I’ve connected with so many kindred spirits since beginning to blog 2 years ago, it’s really been supportive and encouraging community! p.s. I’ve also met a few snobs, by the way, few and far between, but that’s okay–I suppose they exist everywhere, even among us cool writer types 😉

  7. Seriously, Jessica, I can picture you being a famous writer someday. Well, at least someone who keeps with your love of writing. As someone who can *sometimes* get all swoony while writing in coffee shops, I am all for different kinds of writers who aren’t grouped in a box. You go, girl!

  8. Pingback: Writerly Fears; or a Kick-in-the-Pants Pep Talk | The Grizzly Kid

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