Before this website, there was a writers’ group called, you guessed it, WritePublishGrow. Once a month we came together to share our writing and presumably anything we published or personal or professional growth we experienced during the window of time, roughly thirty days, approximately one lunar cycle. Frankly, as my partner would put it, we were tyrekickers. All talk no action.
Before you judge me too severely, allow me to say that there was an intention for this group. I’d intentionally brought together people in my community on the Lower North Shore, who like me were blessed or cursed with a gift for writing. Like me, for whatever reason, they’d turned their backs on their talent. So like a child, our creativity burst out at inappropriate times, menacing our lives until we acknowledged it and like mature grown-ups made a commitment to nurture our orphaned creativity to its full potential. Don’t think this is my writing at its most mature. It’s still growing and experiencing pains but most importantly, through this blog, my creativity is allowed time and space to express herself. Turns out when you keep your inner child happy, life is happy. When one expresses their creativity, the feelings of dissatisfaction with the situations and the people around seems to go out the window.
A Roundtable of Writers
When I started the writers’ group in 2014, it was with a vision of a roundtable and a holy grail.
Beginning with King Arthur, roundtables have come to represent inclusion and recognition that everyone around it, though unique in their views, abilities and backgrounds, are all equally valued and hence deserve everyone’s full presence and consideration.
The earliest table I can remember would be the family dinner table of the Utkus. Dad, a broadcaster for the Voice of America in DC, would often carry his profession home, reading to us in Turkish any opinion pieces he found interesting that day. Our table was dominated by dad’s views and we nodded and agreed. Any views to the contrary were a waste of time as dad was always right. I vowed never to be like him and give everyone’s views full consideration at all times and hence the seeds for WritePublishGrow were sown.
Soon after its inception, WritePublishGrow attracted regulars. Then the holy grail appeared to me. What better way to show that we were writers than to get our writing published in a book?
This would show my partner that once and for all that I’m no tyrekicker but an actual published author.
When the anthology idea came out and we started coming up with some guidelines like how long the pieces needed to be and a theme for the stories, which at the time was me wanting to prove that the people who lived on the Lower North Shore were an alien breed, too reserved, private, organised with an obsession around doing work, improving efficiency and being proper at all times. The biggest trouble with these North Shore snobs was that they didn’t know how to live and here we were, the writers in the community, to show them how.
The idea of the anthology alienated the corporate lawyer and the TV producer who were the most accomplished writers of the group having complete manuscripts under their belt.
I didn’t care.
I had a creative vision and it had to be realised Goddamnit! So let the tyrekickers go…
It was clear to me that the holy grail for the group was the anthology. As the pen is mightier, we came together as writers but the trouble was not many of us were bringing fresh writing. Why was everyone suddenly blocked?
The librarian who’d allowed us to convene in a study room at the Stanton Library was telling me that new people wanted to join the group. I was afraid that the new people would require an orientation and extra time and attention to get them up to speed with our anthology. I suggested to her that if anyone wanted to join the group they had to answer a series of questions. So much for diversity and inclusion, eh?
Thankfully my plan worked and we gained no new people into the group. The problem remained. We weren’t getting the existing members to contribute their pieces. I was about to throw in the towel, then a miracle happened.
One of the writers who’d been tagging along sprung to life and offered to edit the pieces that were already submitted. With an editor on board, the other writers began to submit new stories because hey, there was an editor there to polish their writing before it went into print. In retrospect, not everyone was comfortable with the idea of getting exposure through a self-published book and this probably blocked them from letting their writing flow.
Looking around the table I could see there were more than a few marketers. They were full of confidence about this book and how good it was going to be. As artists (and I call myself an artist or simply a writer these days. Marketer has a connotation that I no longer associate with) we oftentimes think our opinions matter more than other peoples’ and this ain’t necessarily so. We just dwell on things longer (HT David Bowie).
My first challenge came when the cover design for the book appeared. One of the writers who’d done graphic design courses put it together. Let’s just say I appreciated her enthusiasm. The artwork was not what I had in mind for the cover of the book. But everyone else seemed happy.
Oh but I didn’t think it was good enough for my, I repeat, MY precious book. So I took the conversation to the guy who’d graciously agreed to help us self-publish (for a fee) and got his professional opinion. He agreed with me and at the expense of not being inclusive, I dismissed my fellow roundtable member’s artwork and we got some anonymous artist to design the cover.
Well done me. I’m sure King Arthur was shaking his head in dismay.
The Orphaned Monster
I hated every one of the would-be writers around the table by the time the book came out. They were a bunch of narcissistic, publicity hungry, egotistical, self-important, slave-driving self-publishers.
No matter how hard I worked, and mind you, I received no payment, it was not good enough. I received e-mails and messages even while pushing my first bub out. Who the heck were these people constantly demanding more from me?
When the book came out, I was ready to wash my hands off of the project. My creation was a monster which only brought out the worst in me and everyone else around me.
The obsession with something to show for, a tangible evidence that we were writers, some sort of output, ruined the most important thing that nourishes creativity – relationship with ourselves (where was fresh, honest writing?) and those around us.
I purchased a copy of the book as a goodwill gesture when the launch ceremony happened. Some politician spoke nicely but I had no idea who she was and the whole thing was an orphan I abandoned. I intentionally left my copy of the book at the cafe across the street that day but someone recognised the signed copy and returned it.
A second time I left it with a creative director of an agency to showcase my work. She was a woman whose creativity was being sucked dry by marketing campaigns so she didn’t have the time of day for me or the orphan of a book I trusted with her. When she let me know that the cleaners had thrown away the damn book I was so relieved.
Then the book showed up in the post. Turns out the cleaners hadn’t thrown it away after all.
Why couldn’t I get rid of the bloody thing?
Because it was mine and I had to make peace with it.
Was It All Worth It?
I wouldn’t run a writers’ group today. I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than wasting time running a writers’ group when there’s all this writing to do. It was the best I could do at the time and I’m proud of myself and the others for bringing the vision to life. I no longer harbour hard feelings or resentment.
I feel gratitude for the experience and everything it’s taught me.
Over to you…
What is a failed project that’s taught you a key life lesson? Write about it on your blog or e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org