The day after Round 3 ended, I was reading C. M. Cypriani’s blog post, on her official signing up for Round 4. I was struck by this statement, “Where before I wrote in solitude, I now write with friends. I enjoy sharing my writing now instead of hiding it, embarrassed, worried no one would like it. The support I’ve gathered has been phenomenal.”
Her thoughts really hit a chord with me. I think that is the biggest change in my writing life, both the reality of the community and the support I gain from it. Before I stumbled across RoW80, I had a fair amount of experience with writing. I have snatched snippets of time when I needed to think something through, get out my bile over something, or sing of joy and love. Granted, those last bits were often smarmy. Very rarely, those moments were shared with a small number of people, usually two or three. When I was in college, I wrote a poem that I was considering putting in a regional contest. My English professor convinced me to enter, and I made the final ten or half-dozen. There were three published authors invited to critique our poems; however, it was a public forum, held in an auditorium holding about 600. While the place was not full, there were at least 300 there. When my name was called, I had to come up on the stage to read my poem. Then I had to stand there while the critique was performed. For someone who had never had a poem go out into the public, it was an excruciating experience. Neither the novelist nor the essayist found much of interest in the poem, and gave it short shrift—negative, but blessedly short. The poet seemed to feel annoyed that I was wasting his time with this “boiled poetry.” He continued, but as he offered not one single constructive criticism, I have thankfully forgotten the rest of his vituperation.
After my negative experience with creative writing, I hid for years, well, decades, really. Eventually, I began to dream of having a community of writers. I had made a couple of friends who, I later found out, were also writers, and even began to share my writing with them, but as it turns out, they live in the UK. I live in the sticks, so there are no local writing groups—the closest one is 40 miles away. Stumbling over Kait Nolan’s RoW80 site was a serendipitous delight. I lurked for a bit, since I came upon it two weeks before the end of Round 2. I was immediately drawn to the support, help, and generosity of everyone in the group. Need a tip on how to work out a plot point? Send up a flag and no less than ten people will answer you, sending you links to blog posts, or titles of books that helped them. Have a day job meltdown or family crisis? No one will chastise you for not meeting your goals, but will cheer you on to start back on them as soon as you are able. Want to put an excerpt out there to see what people think? Six people will read it before the end of the day. Just feeling lonely? Go hang out at the Twitter hashtag #RoW80 and read the back and forth.
The change for me has been so complete, that I missed the first sign of it until much later. I had never done flash fiction, and never thought I would have the courage to put my fiction up in a public blog. But I entered a flash fiction challenge in late September, posted it on my blog, and didn’t even think about what a change that was for me until a week later. Did anyone laugh at me? Did I get ridiculed? No, I got a lot of very nice comments about it, which warmed me and made me seriously think about expanding the story. Granted, I’m sure it didn’t trip everyone’s trigger, but you know what? I didn’t worry about that; I was proud of what I wrote and even more proud that I didn’t give a second thought to posting it.
So I feel I have the “been there, done that,” to say don’t discredit what you can do, what you have done, what you will do. Don’t ever feel you must hide rather than make a “bad” check-in. I have checked-in when I got nothing done, because life got in the way, or I just had nothing in the well. I got so many responses, telling me that it was okay and that if I just kept plugging, the spring would flow back into the well, life would assume a state of normalcy, and it just meant I had to keep trying. As C. M. said, the support is there. It is truly support, not tearing down or diminishing. We are all here to help one another; this is one of the best support groups I have ever found, so sing out—don’t hide.