Thursday, January 26, 2012


Jonathan has joined a writing group started by Tanya. He meets with four other writers in a café twice a week to "do [their] solitary writing in company". It reminded me that, many years ago, I read a biography of Guillaume Apollinaire, in which he was described as meeting with a partner every day to sit at desks facing each other to write. I don't know how many other writers have worked this way, but it obviously works for some people. It is important, however, to remember that writing remains a solitary activity. If you're having trouble sitting down to do the work, I normally don't recommend solutions as drastic as meeting up with other people to keep each other motivated.

Then again, for what must be a couple of years now, I've been meeting with a running partner, for similar reasons. The social commitment makes it (or at least made it at the time) a bit more likely that I would actually get the run in. The trick here was that neither of us was allowed to cancel if we couldn't make it. We'd just not show up. The other would thereby have gotten "fooled" into running. I've heard of other jogging partnerships that fall apart precisely because one calls up the other the night before to say they're not feeling well, or will be away on a business trip, and the morning jog is thereby essentially cancelled. So, if you're going to have a writing group, I say, make sure that you show up regardless of whether anyone else does.

Yesterday, I started thinking seriously about organizing a retreat for writers, or possibly just an internal exile (a short version of the "Writers' Colony" I did last year.) I'm generally resistant to this idea too because it gives the false impression that writing is supposed to get done in a short period of intense work. But my retreat would involve three hours of writing every day and three hours of discussion. So it would really just enforce "ideal conditions". And the social dimension would certainly help some people maintain their discipline.

James Joyce famously advised "the artist as a young man" to cultivate "silence, exile and cunning". More on this later.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

It is Tanya who started it. I just participate. I didn't want to take credit for someone else's idea and initiative.