Picture a hundred people sitting in a large, high-ceiling room at rows of wooden tables all quietly clicking away at keyboards. No, not a scene from a Mad Men episode featuring the typing pool, but the second Write Here, Write Now conference sponsored by Seattle7 Writers to support literacy in Seattle.
Janis and I went to this event hoping to be inspired by some of Seattle’s most entertaining published writers and expecting to get some real writing done in the process. We were not disappointed. The energy in that room filled with writers working away was kind of magical. The format is simple. One author gives a brief mini-lesson on an aspect of writing (description, dialog, characterization, etc.) and then sets a timer for forty-five minutes and you’re expected to spend that time writing. There is no talking. After writing, a five-minute break and another author presents, and on through the day.
I’m in the middle (sometimes called the muddle) of my second mystery novel now and have felt like I’m slogging along, a little bored with the scenes I’ve written, worried about moving too quickly to the finish, maybe holding back too much. So, I played around with every prompt given that Saturday imagining future scenes with my characters. I wrote a stormy scene after hearing Tim Egan talk about nature writing, a scene between my protagonist and a police investigator after the prompt from Thea Cooper to write a scene of mostly dialog beginning with the line: I can’t believe you said that! I wrote a bit about falling in love just because Dave Boling suggested that writing about the first time I fell in love would unleash passionate feelings to use later. That was fun and led to a scene between my protagonist , her boyfriend and her sister presenting some intriguing possibilities for jealousy and passion later. I also wrote a list of things that repel me at Stephanie Kallos’ suggestion that we imbue our characters with traits which are the opposite of our own, to be sure that we are not always writing thinly veiled autobiography. Lovely. I will never step foot in a sushi restaurant, attend a boxing match or go to a flea market to buy a gun. But my protagonist might.
And during those five-minute breaks, the longer break at lunch and the final question and answer session performed like a game show with the Seattle7 Writers as contestants and Garth Stein as Emcee, I met some other writers, nice people who were interested in what I’m doing and excited to talk about their own writing journeys.
Writing is ordinarily a solitary endeavor. Most mornings I drag myself out of bed while my husband and dog are still blissfully asleep, make some coffee and tiptoe into my office to read what I wrote the day before, pick it up from there and plow ahead until I’ve written around 750 words. That’s the goal anyway. Sometimes it works and sometimes I read my previous scene and have no clear idea how to move forward. So I have to watch the sun come up (or, realistically, here in Seattle in February, watch the sky lighten) while daydreaming and wishing I’d stayed in bed to do the real head-on-pillow kind of dreaming. I might pick up a favorite book and flip through it or go to my step outline and write a stream of consciousness kind of rundown on all that could happen in the novel going forward.
But since I had the exhilarating experience of writing alongside of a hundred others on that Saturday, I know this: I am not alone. As I sit in my office staring at the blank screen, I imagine those other writers all sitting in their own writing places somewhere in Seattle, clicking away on their keyboards. And I can still feel the magic in the memory of that energy.