These are the People Who Understand Why I Write

A humid breeze swirls through the predawn shadows as The Beast (my 1990 GMC Safari) roars to life. I hope it hasn’t woken the kids inside the house. Stones crackle under the van as I speed unnecessarily to the end of the quarter-mile drive under a canopy of trees that, in the morning light, will show just a hint of yellow at their tips. But at 6:30 it’s still dark.

I whoosh down wet country roads, a slight fog clinging to my front windscreen. The air carries just a hint of fall leaves, a dash of rain, and, under it all, like the spice you can’t quite put your finger on, some premonition of winter. I’ll take all of it.

I drive through the small town of Gap – when I was a kid, 6:30 in the morning would have meant the roads would be deserted, but now, in 2012, I am 34 and the roads are lined with idling semis who only know they are somewhere between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. They cannot possibly know the importance of the hidden baseball diamonds they pass, or the exhilaration I felt at that Exxon station the night I crept out of the house, fifteen years old, disregarding my parents, and way in over my head.

But that’s a different story.

I park in a small lot and walk through drizzle to the glass door of a restaurant. Inside it’s quiet, and a white-haired lady with a kind smile greets me, the same woman every time. I sit at a booth and wait.

Caleb arrives, wearing a suit coat. I am glad I didn’t go with my normal getup of paint-covered sweatshirt and ripped jeans. Well, not really. Caleb isn’t the kind of guy to care about that, and neither is Bryan, who walks in a few minutes later.

The conversation warms up slowly, kind of like The Beast. This is normal. Why – because we’re guys? it’s early? we’re guys? I don’t know, but soon the interrogation begins in earnest. The coffee (okay, I drink tea) begins disappearing from the small mugs.

What are you working on?

Where are you trying to go with it?

What are your goals?

The restaurant begins to fill. Caffeine spikes into the blood, we push thoughts forward over omelets and toast and let the others pry through our writing with forks and knives and questions. I realize I could talk about this stuff, with these guys, all day.

Bryan heads off to work. I stand in the parking lot with Caleb, and he politely listens to the top-secret details of my work-in-progress. We shake hands. I head home to write.

How can I describe the importance of spending time with people who understand what I do, why I would spend entire days, weeks, months, simply writing? Impossible.

If you don’t have friends like this, start looking. Or keep looking.

* * * * *

Do you spend time with people who truly “get” what you do?

14 Replies to “These are the People Who Understand Why I Write”

  1. Not enough of them, no. Most of the friendships I have with folks who “get” me have been formed over the internet, and I’m extremely grateful for them. But I don’t know anyone around here who looks at writing and art and faith the way I do.

  2. Shawn. Fantastic. Interesting, too, that what you’re reallly writing about here is community…hmmm….

    Yes. I do. BUT, I am encouraged by this to find writing partners, as much as I have running and faith and homeschool and other partners. It would add a lovely and important dimension to my work. Thank you.

  3. @David – Keep looking around for someone local. I never had this before, and when I moved to Lancaster I certainly didn’t expect to find it here. Fortunately, Bryan married one of childhood friends and moved to the area (12 years ago), and then I found Caleb’s blog online. Meeting face to face, even just once a month or so, is great.

    @Jen – I wondered how long it would take for the “c” word to come up.

    @ Bryan – Promptness to work is always overrated. And thanks for introducing me to the world of blogging.

  4. i too have my collections of people who share my writer work. mostly individuals. my husband is my first reader, then there is my agent, my editor, my mentor…all have a role in crafting a piece.

    i once wrote a post for relief journal’s blog about how i see three types of readers for a writer during the process and how important it is to choose the right reader for the right moment. but what you have here is support – the only kind of writing “group” for me…one that doesn’t read and critique so much as sit and listen.

    i go out for wine with 3 other women writers at a sidewalk cafe nearby (its florida so we can) we might meet only every few months, but we howl with laughter and cry over life situations and talk rejections and writing and publication.

    its the haven you so eloquently describe.

  5. Good model, Shawn! Certainly, if there is anyone near Albany, NY; I would be interested in meeting up. Just use the email address on my blog.

  6. Oh, this hit just at the time when I was thinking that I really, really need to find IRL people to write with. I’ve been putting it off because my writing is all non-fiction stuff and most writer groups tend to be fiction, but I know that I’m missing out on improving my craft by not having people that I can sit down with and go over stuff with in real time. This post inspired me to get in touch with a friend who I think can put me in touch with a writing group.

    That said, I so appreciate friends online who have been willing to be honest with me about pieces that I send them. I’ve had good pieces become much better due to input from people who are willing to be honest about improvements that I can make. That means a ton to me.

  7. I fancy myself a polite guy, but the parking lot exchange was all intrigue!

    If I get good enough seats, maybe I can work on an endorsement for that top-secret project on November 13th in Philly.

  8. Yes! This is so important. I have a couple of real life writing friends. We don’t see each other consistently but we definitely soak up our time together when it happens, whether we write together or simply talk about it. A blogging friend and I email each other once a week for accountability and encouragement regarding our WIPs. That has been a huge and unexpected gift the last few months. Finally, it helps to have all my virtual writing pals that get it too.

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