I was fishing around for an idea for my blog today and looked at some of my old articles. I found this one, written in 2004, for the Warner Forever website when I was writing as Diane Perkins. Lots has happened to me since–including me happily settling in writing for Harlequin–but it was fun to reread this. It is very nice that I still feel this way!
It has been one year since I hung up my social worker “hat” to become a full-time writer, trading a day job filled with people for one where the primary interaction is with my laptop. People ask me if it has been difficult to cope with the lonely life of a writer.
People who lose themselves in books do not mind solitude, so it did not surprise me that writing a book had the same effect. My days are, after all, still filled with people, even though they are the fictional kind. But fictional people are not a true substitute for social connection, no matter what sorts of exciting journeys they take you on. Writers, like everyone else, need real people.
Nine years ago (16 years ago now!) when I first decided to try to write a romance novel, I took a creative writing course at my local community college where I met my first writing friend, still one of my best friends. She and I and another dear friend joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Washington (DC) Romance Writers. I discovered there were lots of people like me who had stories running through their heads. I attended meetings, retreats, and conferences where everyone wanted to talk about their stories and the challenges of putting them down on paper.
Through Washington Romance Writers I joined yet another critique group that included published authors who not only taught me more of the publishing business but also became wonderful friends. When I decided to write my favorite kind of romance, Regency Historicals, I joined the Beau Monde, the RWA chapter for Regency writers. Through the Beau Monde I met writers with a similar passion for the regency time period, including a friend I traveled with on my first trip to England (Amanda McCabe, my fellow Risky at Risky Regencies). Each year my list of friends connected to RWA grows. When my first Regency Historical won RWA’s 2003 Golden Heart contest it seemed like a room of 2000 friends cheered for me at the awards ceremony. It is difficult to feel lonely in such a community. (The 2003 Golden Heart also made me a member of the Wet Noodle Posse, the 2003 Golden Heart finalists. We’re still in touch with each other)
Meetings, conferences, and critique groups, however, cannot ease the quiet, solitary hours of a writing day. Luckily technology provides relief in the form of email, instant messaging, and loops (now Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype!). Through an online writers loop I met a friend in Australia, a soul-mate. Our lives had so many parallels we even shared a birthday (or 12 hours of a birthday). This friendship led to a special email group of twelve friends half of whom live in Australia, the other half in the US). I feel as close to these ladies as if we’d grown up together even though I’ve never seen most of them. (We’ve dwindled to seven since)
When working my “regular” job, I’d always felt too busy to get to know any neighbors off my little street, but thanks to the novelty of having a romance writer in their midst (and the determination of my next-door neighbor to promote me!) I’ve become friendly with more and more of them. If I had not been sitting on my rear end writing all day, I’d never have joined the neighborhood Curves®, where I sweat with friendly ladies three times a week, using the time as my midday writing break (alas, my Curves is closing at the end of the month). I have not lost old friends either. I often have lunch or dinner with old work friends. My family life is not lonely either. I am fortunate to have a husband, children, sisters, and in-laws who support my dream of a writer’s life.
During my writing day I can count on friends being only an email, a phone call, or a few blocks away. Four of us, including my first writing friend, email each other almost daily and make a point of getting together as frequently as possible, at least once a month for lunch or dinner or a whole day of conversation.
With the release of THE IMPROPER WIFE, my American debut novel (because at that time The Mysterious Miss M had only come out in the UK), I am looking forward to widening my friendships to include readers (And now I can count readers as friends!!) How could a writer feel lonely if hearing how much a reader enjoyed the book?
So how have I coped with the lonely life of a writer?
Because the life of a romance writer has brought me a world of friends.
(And this is a major part of the joy of writing romance!)
How have the last seven years brought you new friends?