writers’ bloc: Practicing Writers’ Hospitality

By May 8, 2008 faith, language No Comments

writers’ bloc features topics related to the writing craft and the writing life.

Last June, I had the privilege of attending the Write-to-Publish conference. There I got a crash course in the writing biz, through the privilege of meeting with editors and sharing my work with other writers for open critique.

A weakness of mine—pointed out by the critique groups at Write-to-Publish—is my lack of welcome and ease in unfolding my ideas. You see, I tend to get right down to business. No need to dilly-dally with goofy icebreakers; no need to rack up the word count by lingering in chitchat.

What I have discovered, however, is although I am quite familiar with the topic at hand, my readers are not. I may be able to pick up the thread of thinking at any point, knowing where it came from and where it is leading—but others cannot. This is similar to the varying degrees of relationship. New acquaintances learn about one another starting with the basics of life (work, home, family, activities, etc.); longtime kindred spirits, who know the basics, can skip ahead to deeper, more personal matters.

This weakness of mine is like forcing new acquaintances into my life from the deep end. (And no one really enjoys being pushed into a pool when they aren’t ready for it.)

My goal over this past year has been to develop a natural way of transitioning; a way to invite people to wade into the pool of my thinking. I like to think of it as being hospitable and taking care that my newfound friends are comfortable while they are “in my home.” (No quick moves that will topple them into the pool unaware!)

The act of hospitality, in a writing sense, connects writer and reader through common ground. Hospitality may be achieved simply by relating difficulty or humor or a life situation that is assumed to be common to all (or many). Whatever the invite, this hospitality sets the stage for the relationship to come.

So writer’s hospitality is the task I have been attempting to practice over the past year. What I have found, however, is that I am often stumped to find the common ground between the anecdotes I have on hand and the topic that is brewing within me.

Stories and examples used to come easily to me. Maybe my memory has faded a bit. I used to keep a journal. That was my writing playground, where I would jot an idea, craft some poetic verse, and keep meaningful quotes from writers I admired. A few years back, however, I discontinued this practice. And now I am wondering if I need to reinstate it—keeping track of personal struggles and triumphs, humorous observations and happenings, and powerful quotes—with the goal of having at the ready some fodder for writer’s hospitality.

I’m curious how other writers practice hospitality and keep track of examples . . .

So for all you writers out there . . . What sort of journaling system do you keep? How do you catalog quotes and references for future use? How do you practice writer’s hospitality?

I’m so glad you have waded in this deep. And I hope you have felt welcome here. Come back anytime!

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