Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

If one can argue against traditional non-academic literary schools, then one can reason against a purely academic model (Part2)

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Part 2: writing as an isolating practice

I have a pen pal relationship with a writer from Connecticut. This exact subject has come up in our emails. In 2013, BBC had a series of audio documentaries that talked on the sins of being a writer and the need for a writer to balance between isolation and being a part of society came up. Of course my pen pal shared a link to it, while it was free. Sadly, BBC is infamous for forcing people to pay to download any of their media after it's been up for 2 weeks.

Here's what we concluded. Non collaborative creative writing is a singular act. This is not up for debate. What can a writers' group actually do? There are only so many questions to ask:

Are there too many fancy words?
Too many simple words?
Too many words?
Poem in the wrong order?
Does the poem's structure lack rationale?
Are those misspellings intentional?
Words being used incorrectly?
Check spaces between words.
Do line breaks work?
Is repetition of a particular word intentional?
Do the answers for all the above match the chosen genre of writing?

(From my Writer's block series of blog posts.)

At some point a writer should know the answers, know what to expect from a writers' group and go through the process themself. To do otherwise, is sheer laziness. If you're putting your name on a document have some pride. Do writers' groups still have a place? Yes, they still do.

This is where my pen pal and I differ. She does not believe in interacting with fellow writers as a regular practice. I believe that not going to the occasional reading, or interacting with others in the same field is too isolating. Emails are cool, but I want to know the current trends in contemporary writing. I am not respected enough to assume that my work will be purchased with me sight unseen. I even see the benefit of helping fellow creative writers.

Why? Mentoring. If I ever ran a writers' group I would cycle people through. How many times do you have to teach an adult how to answer 11 or so questions? 1 year? 2 years maximum. After 2 years in a group, the only question a senior member of a group should be asking is, “Does this suck?” Or rather, “Is the emotional impact of my writing, match the intended emotional impact?” If no, it sucks. If yes? Well, your writing does not suck – congrats. (There will be exceptions, like people writing in their second language, but you get my point.)

Young adults, and teenagers may need more than that. For instance, since 2012 I've been working on manuscripts that carry a heavy psychological weight. A younger writer will need an older friend to lean on. They may need someone to encourage them to continue a very difficult process. Or, give them advice to deal with the weight that their writing is carrying. A lot of this is what friends are for. But how many young adults have friends who are mature enough to help them carry such a heavy psychological load? This is why I hold Anna Saini and Dan D'Onorio in such high respects.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Dane Swan

Dane Swan is a Bermuda-raised, Toronto-based internationally published poet, writer and musician. His first collection, Bending the Continuum was launched by Guernica Editions in the Spring of 2011.

Go to Dane Swan’s Author Page