Planning and Writing

A Newbie Writer Doesn’t Have To Do It Alone

Writing can be lonely. Starting out daunting. But you don’t have to do it alone.

I have posted previously how I love my writer’s groups and the good they have done me. As a newbie writer last year, I was clueless. How to write, how to structure, determine my audience, stay committed.

I was so lucky to find right away a group of writers in San Miguel de Allende where I make my home. They have been incredibly welcoming and encouraging. And it is so helpful to check in with them every week. Feel a commitment.

I have increased my circle after being introduced to other groups. It is like crochet, each loop brings you to another way to grow.

Over the year, I have taken part in workshops through the San Miguel Writer’s Conference and Literary Sala, and elsewhere. Each one opening up my mind and giving me a hand towards improvement.

It was daunting to share my work in the beginning. I was so self-conscious. So worried I wouldn’t measure up to others and their skill. Scared I would waste the precious time of those in my groups that were more accomplished than me. I mean, published writers in the groups! Oh my!

The more I took part, the more feedback and constructive criticism I received, all so valuable, the more confident I became in offering my writing for review.

I am not the best at offering critiques to others yet. But I am trying and learning each time. Listening to other’s writing broadens how I look at mine.

I don’t find competition and a “no it is my idea” attitude. Instead, I feel we are all in this together. Everyone knows we each have our own story. A camaraderie to succeed. How refreshing.

I am proud of what I am writing. It/me/warts are all coming out. I am learning I am worthwhile and not to be ashamed of my past. Giving kindness to myself has been a powerful outcome. Absorbing kindness from others has been accepting amazing gifts.

I finished my first memoir in essay rough draft. Put it aside for a bit to gain some perspective. And have dove back in.

I have written my essays, but they are rough. There is a hell of a lot of work to do, many more drafts in my future. I have time.

I set out a goal for the essays. They are all stepping stones leading towards the last page of this memoir. How did I become homeless and shattered? In hindsight, what were the clues I could not recognize? How did life get away from me? What leads to my diagnosis?

My Monday’s writer’s workout this week with Nadine Kenney Johnstone resulted in a lightbulb moment. I have been seeking all along a way to tie the essays together, to provide the path for readers. We were brainstorming story links. I came up with a few ideas. I still need to try them out, see what works best, but I felt so good at the end of the class. Eager to move forward. Nadine’s workshops are insightful, her zest encouraging.

In the end, we can share our work with others in separate ZOOM rooms. I was “assigned” a room with Kelly Q. Anderson. I have been lucky to share with her a few times. I am in awe of Kelly. She can take a prompt and in fifteen minutes produce a nearly finished essay.

Not so for me. Yet. I have a tendency to overthink.

Monday, Kelly was brilliant. I gulped. It was my turn. I had disjointed thoughts; it was a stream-of-consciousness session. I had not formed an essay. I had a list.

But Kelly listened to what I had written and added her thoughts about how I might pull out the thread and links further and improve them. Excellent. Ideas were taking shape. The structure was presenting itself. And I think things will really work out well, someone’s input was just what I needed.

Would I have progressed as far as I have this past year if I did not join in workshops and groups? Probably not. I might end up at the same place if I tried to, but it would take much longer and many more mistakes to get there.

Books about writing are interesting and helpful, so are YouTube videos. I have been reading/watching several. But nothing beats hands-on and in real-time, even if on ZOOM. There is a set time to meet. That helps me with procrastination issues. I sit my butt down and do the work every week. I look forward to catching up with my writer friends.

As a newbie, I felt intimidated. An imposter. I felt I might have bitten off another unachievable desire. I do that a lot. Dive in without a plan and burn out. That wasn’t what I wanted to do this time.

My groups, teachers, and husband have encouraged me to have an “I can do this attitude.” Each day I experience movement.

The worst thing I could have done, as my memoir idea percolated, was thinking I can figure this all out on my own. To be too stubborn or proud to believe I didn’t need advice and help. My book would have stagnated.

Everyone was a newbie writer at one point. Each is now a valuable resource.

There is a complicated world in writing and publishing. There is a lot to learn. But together we can achieve success.

Open up your arms and embrace the people in your path, network, give back as much as you receive, believe in yourself, and enjoy the journey.

Know you are not alone!

Then, pass it forward.

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  • Reply
    Kelly Jeanne
    November 28, 2021 at 6:00 pm

    Hey Ria! I’m so impressed with what I’ve been reading so far about your journey! It gives me hope. Thank you! You are a success!

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      December 13, 2021 at 9:15 am

      Hi Kelly, Thank you so much. Mexico and of course San Miguel have so much to offer. It has provided me with such a fabulous place to write out COVID and to get amazing support from the community here. And then, ZOOM has also been a lifesaver and allowed me to meet amazing writers at all levels, each finding their own path.

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