Why ROW80? Why not? by Nancy Poehlmann

When I found the ROW80 website, I felt as though a door had opened at the end of a dark passage. For someone who was told by a thesis advisor that I had to marry the library like a nun marries Christ, the subtitle is downright stunning. A writing challenge that knows I have a life?  Really? As I read the check-in posts, I became more excited. It seemed to be true, since several people had goals that would work for me. Much as I admire the NaNoWriMo writers of the world, it is not for me. I work at least 40 hours a week; I have a husband, kids, dogs, friends, interests (like sleep) and all the rest. And although my fondest dream is to go to a writer’s retreat, and leave the rest behind, I couldn’t really step out of my life for more than a week; after that the pile of email at work would choke the life out of me. I have had years of practice at fitting my writing into corners, so why did I run down that dark passage to join ROW80? Let me give three solid examples.

1. ROW80 gives me a community. Writing is a lonely business. My alarm goes off two hours before the rest of the family. Not even my dogs stir for long. They open one eye; I can almost read their thoughts, “Oh, that crazy human, she’s doing it again.” They snuggle back into their curled shapes, and sigh back to sleep. My family is very supportive, giving me multiple passes on cooking and cleaning, for which I love them dearly. They give me so much, but they cannot be my writing community as well.

I work full-time, but writing “popular” works is not something I can share with my colleagues, who have all gone through the strainer of academic life to see only nuggets of peer-reviewed footnoted work as valuable. The rest of the outside world is not easily accessible for me, either. But with the magic of the internet, it is at the touch of my fingertips, isn’t it? Consider that first blog post, when one contemplates the abyss to which one is sending cherished words. Is there anyone out there?  Will anyone read this, and even if they do, will it touch them enough to elicit a response? ROW80’s smaller group of check-in posts in the wide, wild universe of blogging gives me someplace to hang my hat, which I find immeasurably reassuring.

2. ROW80 also gives me accountability. Wanting to look good, serious, and committed will overcome every perfectionist, procrastinating cell in my being. I want to convince you of my worth in this group, so I cannot slack for too long or too consistently. I’ve been in writing support group meetings where many of us will shuffle our coffee cups nervously before finally admitting that we only started writing, researching, or revising yesterday or the day before, out of sheer reluctance to show up empty-handed. Although I do not have to face you across a table at a coffee-shop, I have to write in words what I have done, to a group of people who are knowledgeable of the power of words. I can’t fake you out, which is a very good thing.

3. ROW80 gives me models. I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but it’s been a secret from nearly everyone I know. I did enter a poem in a competition in college; it was published in the college literary journal, so at least twenty people have seen it. Professionally, I’ve given papers, published essays, taught classes; privately, I am breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of really sending my work out there. It helps immensely to know that all of you do it. The goals you set for yourselves help me to see that I can do the same: I can sit down to write every single day and accomplish that goal. You also model that it is okay if I don’t meet my goals at times; that all of us write pages that we read later and wonder what the heck we were thinking; and that nevertheless,  we will sit down the next day undeterred. Many of you have succeeded by doing this, and doing it well; that gives me more hope than you can possibly imagine.

~*~

Nancy Poehlmann

 

26 comments

  1. Nancy, so much of what you wrote rang true for me. That’s why I did this, and will do it again. I work full-time, but at least I can share with my colleagues (or most of them) my passion for writing. So I’m doubly glad that you’ve found a community online.

    But, Nancy, {{{Dude}}} waking up 2 hours early? That’s commitment!

  2. Well said, Nancy. I believe these are the reasons many ROW participants keep returning. It’s working for me. I love that I don’t have to feel ‘guilty’ for having a life. I like connecting with other writers. I need to be accountable – having to write the bi-weekly posts that honestly relate my progress (or lack of). I appreciate the encouragement of fellow writers when I succeed, and their empathy when I’ve had a tough week.
    Thanks for articulating what many of us would like to have said!
    ~Nadja

  3. Great post Nancy. Row80 definitely helps keeps me accountable and quite possibly that’s what keeps me writing. Seeing all those other folks out there who are doing it, plugging away. As you said, being models and showing us how its done.

    1. Thanks, Robin. There are so many different ways that people approach their goals, there are all sorts of models in the group.

      The accountability has made me get more done in the past two weeks than I had in the month prior to that; it’s definitely working for me!

  4. As I have said more than once you writers who combine real life with your writing totally gobsmack me – you acheive so much and still keep families and work under control – me I’m just a retired old lady having fun – but even for me ROW80 has helped me keep on track – keep the purpose of it going so YAY for ROW80

    1. Thank you, Alberta. YAY for ROW80 indeed! I’ve heard from people who write full-time that it is sometimes hard to structure their time. I don’t know from personal experience, but I’m not surprised that it would be true.

  5. A number of months ago I was at a dinner party where we started talking about social networking. I mentioned I had friends all around the world.

    In response, one of the ladies said, “Who needs them?”

    Though I let the subject drop, (I’m sure our hostess didn’t want a knock-down-drag-out) my resounding response would be, “I do!”

    Thanks for the encouragement you offer just by being there, Nancy – and all my fellow ROW80ers.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie. I’m glad that I can offer encouragement.

      I’m stunned by the response you got; to me, that is one of the best parts of ROW80; reading through the posts, I was struck by the friendships that have grown up through the rounds. As for me–“who needs them?” I do!

  6. Wonderfully written and right on target, Nancy! You touched on the heart of both the writers struggle and the power of community to help with that journey.

    Nicely done!

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