One of the things this blog has made me do is consider whether or not I should join or start a writer’s group. The authors of Art and Fear make the observation that the attrition rate of artists after graduation is incredibly high; if it were that high for doctors after medical school there would be a Senate investigation. They recommend getting together a support system for when you are out of school, perhaps to take the place of the one you had while you were in there.
Myself, when I was taking my second writing class, I just found it intimidating. Oh, it had the result of making me write (I had to earn a grade, for one thing), but I was more discouraged than encouraged by my experience there. Part of that was my reaction to the other students. If I felt that anyone had written a better essay than I, I was demoralized completely. How is it communicated to a student/artist that their work is their own and stands on its own merits? Why can’t I accept that for myself?
I couldn’t write the essays the others wrote partly because I hadn’t had the experiences they had had. I don’t mean that in an existential way, either. I mean the actual experiences that they wrote about. Some events lend themselves to a more dramatic, or funnier, story than others. Some even dictate the style of writing. My topic was too big, too rambling, I bit off more than I could chew. I need to learn to deal with my life in my writing in more manageable pieces. (Or be prepared to write a much longer essay, which is what I eventually did).
But did that experience make me stop writing? Obviously not. So, although I think the writers of Art and Fear have a very good point about support systems, I still think that “real” writers won’t quit. Or, if we do quit, we will be miserable. There have been many periods in my life when I didn’t write a thing. Except for in my journal. And in there my most common criticism of myself was that I wasn’t writing. And yet I was, if “only” in my journal. Because I couldn’t stop writing no matter what was going on in my life or how I felt about myself. I just couldn’t.