Blog 20

Community & Positive Black Holes

Are You an Island?

We love reading your submissions. They make us think a lot about writers’ processes and about preferences. We asked a couple of our Issue 5 writers, “How much of an island are you when it comes to your writing? Are you part of a writers group, do you seek feedback on your work, or do you predominantly work alone? Do you have a writing mentor?” There is no correct answer to this question, but we were fascinated enough to see what a few of you thought.

Kathie Giorgio, author of ‘Out of Hibernation’ shares her thoughts on writing with a community with us. Kathie’s fourth book, a novel titled Rise From The River, was released by the Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2015 while Kathie was Visiting Author at Carroll University. In 2016, MSR will be releasing a book called Oddities and Endings: The Collected Stories of Kathie Giorgio, a collection of 40 of Giorgio’s stories previously published in literary magazines. Her first two novels and a short story collection were also released by MSR. Clocks received the Outstanding Achievement award by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee and was nominated for the Paterson Fiction Award. Lifetime, the sequel to Clocks, debuted to a standing-room only audience of over 200 people at the 2013 Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, where Kathie was the welcoming Keynote. Hearts was selected as one of the 99 Summer Must-Reads by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2012. Giorgio’s short stories and poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines and in many anthologies. She’s been nominated for the Million Writer Award, the Write Well Award, and for the Best of the Net anthology and has been interviewed for articles in Poets & Writers magazine. She is the director and founder of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, an international creative writing studio.

You can read Kathie’s story and 9 other pieces of short fiction and creative non-fiction by New Zealand and international authors in Issue 5.

Community & Positive Black Holes

So I admit, when I was asked to write a blog on the subject of whether writers need community or if they need isolation, I laughed. After all, besides being a writer, I am the director and founder of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, an international creative writing studio that offers workshops and classes in all genres and abilities of creative writing, as well as coaching and editing services. Above all, AllWriters’ is a community – a thriving, passionate community of writers that spans the globe. The support and encouragement felt here is incredible, and the knowledge shared is priceless. So I think I would fall on the side of community!

However, as I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room three hours away from my home. The door is locked, the Do Not Disturb sign is up, the social media is turned off, my cell phone is turned off, the television is turned off…all for isolating myself to get some much-needed quiet and a chance to work deeply and creatively.

So do I think that writers need community? Or do I think that writers need isolation? Yes. To both.

When I first formed AllWriters’, the motto or tagline was, “Writing is an act of isolation, but writers don’t have to be isolated.” Over time, another sentence was added to that: “If you’re a writer, welcome home.”

What we actively do as writers is very different from what most people do with their jobs. Writers don’t have coffee breaks, lunch breaks, gatherings around the water cooler where they can lift their heads from their work and talk with others who are doing the same thing. When we are at our desks and we lift our heads, there’s not usually anyone there. If we go downstairs to the fridge for a cold one or the coffee pot for a hot cuppa, there’s no one to talk to about what we’ve been doing. Even if we’re a coffeehouse writer, we’re surrounded by strangers; there’s no one to share with, commiserate, moan and groan and rejoice. You finally figured out the epiphany your character has to have? High five! But with no other palm. You’ve guttered to a stop on a sentence because you can’t think of a way to describe the blue of a Wisconsin sky in August at three o’clock in the afternoon, just after a rainstorm? Talk it out…but to yourself.

Writing communities such as AllWriters’ provide that palm and that listening ear. We share our work and receive expert help. We talk about our acceptances and rejections and receive a cheer or a pat on the back. When we talk about how a character simply refuses to do what we want him to do, we get boisterous understanding. Talk about something like that with a non-writer, and you receive a blank look and then a suggestion for the nearest therapist.

So yes, writers need community. Without a doubt. Over twenty years of teaching, and eleven years of running the studio, I’ve watched friendships and bonds grow deeper and deeper. Thanks to the glory of the internet, my students connect with each other, no matter where they are. And when they do meet face to face, the joy is boundless. I don’t feel like I run a business. I feel like I sit at the head of a massive dining room table, filled the entire length with family.

But then what about isolation? Why am I all alone in a hotel room if community is so important?

I believe the act of writing, the act of creation, needs isolation. You need to be alone with your thoughts and your imagination. When we write, we dive into a part of our brains kept hidden from public view. And we disappear into it for a while. Particularly with fiction writers, but I believe across all the genres, we enter a positive black hole of sorts. Something mysterious, something unexplained, but something wonderful. Our own personal worlds disappear and the world we’re writing about surrounds us. It’s what we see, it’s what we hear, and we lose ourselves in the writing.

But sometimes, it’s hard to lose oneself in the middle of life. We start to write, and the dog asks to be let out. We start to write and the child has to be picked up from school. We start to write and we hear the mailman come and we wonder if he brought any acceptances and wouldn’t that be wonderful. We start to write and the phone rings. We start to write and our partner chooses just then to decide to become amorous, and well, who’s going to turn that down?

And so for me, this hotel room. AllWriters’ is three hours away. So is the studio phone. My daughter is at home and so is my husband. I’ve learned that in order to really get down and dirty and get some work done, I have to completely remove myself. Though even here, well…there’s this blog, you know…

In general, writers don’t have to go to such extremes to get some isolation. I heartily recommend setting up your own spot to write, preferably with a door. Let others know that you’re going to be working and unless someone is bleeding or dying, you are not to be bothered – and then stick to your word. Send away the teary, but non-bleeding child. Put up with a dog puddle on the floor. Dive!

Years ago, when my big kids were little, I had one of those hairdryers that you sit under. When I sat under that, the heat on and roaring, even in the middle of July, my kids knew that Mom was in her inner sanctum and she was not to be disturbed. A physical sign like that does wonders to the outside world. Find something – a closed door, like I said, or a hairdryer – that says to the world, “Not now. Talk to me later.”

That isolation is important for the creative process. It’s where the best work comes from. The chance to be profoundly immersed allows you to become your writing. To be the writer. Drop all of the other roles and responsibilities aside and just revel in creation.

Well, now I’ve gone all Yoda on you.

So I see it like this – during the actual writing of the piece, writers need isolation. During the finessing of it, the high polishing, writers need their community. And while living the ups and downs of the writing life, writers simply need other writers.

Writers need a heaping helping of both isolation and community. We’re kinda weird that way. But lovable.

I’m diving into my black hole now. I’ll be out in a week. And then I will embrace my community. See you then.




Kathie Giorgio

Kathie Giorgio’s fourth book, a novel titled "Rise From The River", was released by the Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2015 while Kathie was Visiting Author at Carroll University. In 2016, MSR will be releasing a book called "Oddities and Endings: The Collected Stories of Kathie Giorgio", a collection of 40 of Giorgio's stories previously published in literary magazines. Her first two novels and a short story collection were also released by MSR.   “Clocks” received the Outstanding Achievement award by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee and was nominated for the Paterson Fiction Award. "Lifetime", the sequel to "Clocks", debuted to a standing-room only audience of over 200 people at the 2013 Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, where Kathie was the welcoming Keynote. “Hearts” was selected as one of the 99 Summer Must-Reads by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2012. Giorgio’s short stories and poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines and in many anthologies. She’s been nominated for the Million Writer Award, the Write Well Award, and for the Best of the Net anthology and has been interviewed for articles in Poets & Writers magazine.  She is the director and founder of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, an international creative writing studio. 

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