As I come off this year’s Writer’s Digest Conference, I am thinking about how fortunate I am. I get to do work that I love, and when I spend time around other writers, I am among incredibly generous and supportive people. As author Steven James said during his “Story Trumps Structure” workshop, we are in a rare business where people who could be our “competition” come and share everything they know. He likened it to Apple going to Google and sharing all their secrets.
The magic, of course, is that there is no competition. Each of us has a unique story to tell, so the more of us the merrier. We don’t have to elbow anyone out of the way.
Back home, I am once again immersed in my projects. For one, I am reading about artists, particularly female and self-taught. Think Grandma Moses as one of many examples. I’m also learning to draw and watercolor. I’m not doing this because I want a new hobby, though I suspect I’ll keep at it because it’s fun. No, it’s a way to understand my main character better.
While I continue my research for that novel, I am living (in my mind) in late 19th-century Scotland. This story idea has sent me to Scotland twice and the old mills of Lowell, Massachusetts; introduced me to proletarian novelists such as Elizabeth Gaskell (think contemporaries of Dickens); and introduced me to genealogy.
When I wrote What She Knew, I studied the victims and perpetrators of the Madoff Ponzi Scheme. I was fascinated with the movers and shakers of Wall Street and what would happen if one of them actually grew a conscience.
In short, as a writer I get to live many lives. I get to play dress up and try on new identities. I get to peer inside the heads of my characters, who I grow to love as if they are real people and real friends.
This is a good life. A happy life. A fulfilled life. Last week I met a lot of wonderful writers who share this journey with me, and I am looking forward to getting to know all of you better.