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One of several good "headshots" taken by Mark Bennington at the latest PNWA conference.

I’ve had just a few different work environments. My first paid job was at House of Fabrics in the mall, my second was at my dad’s family practice as a billing clerk and the third was at Quadtek, a small company that had offices in an office park. Oh, and I had a short term job with a market research company in Reno that was in a truly creepy dark building off Kietzke lane. The first three I mentioned all had one thing in common–other people. Given that the fabric store was in the mall, there was an extended sort of relationship with other mall workers, too. I got to know the people at Mrs. Fields Cookies a bit too well maybe.

At my dad’s office, in spite of the obvious nepotism, there were about six of us in the front and billing offices. We went to lunch together, hung out occasionally and socialized. It was there that my dad’s book-keeper, Donna, taught me to knit. The entire office staff wasn’t huge, but it was a staff. At Quadtek, I had my first real experience in an atmosphere where I was working with what can be referred to as “colleagues” and not just “another employee sharing space.” With just three of us in the sales and marketing department, it was small, but still…

You already know where I’m heading here. Writing is a solitary act. Not all of us are hermits in caves, nor do we all want to be. But, for me, writing is something I do best when I’m alone and when there are no interruptions. Blogging is a bit easier than ‘writing’ when people are around. I started this post at 9:00 this morning, and it is now after 3:00 pm. Sure, there was an hour or so when the power is out, but it really shouldn’t take anyone six hours to write three hundred words. I started the post, fed the 8YO, did some dishes while waiting for the power to come back on, hung out with a friend who was dropping off a child for a play date, took the 8yo and his friend to the park, and am just back to it now.

My children might be fodder or material for my writing, buy they are not my colleagues. They are not here to support me in my writing, nor do they actively try. They don’t want to listen to me whine about why a character isn’t behaving, or why a plot is flailing around, or why I can’t stop writing the phrase “seems to” forty-seven times in two hundred pages. They don’t care why I am pulling my hair out over a single word choice.

Charlotte, me and Claire....aren't the badges just lovely?

At a conference though…I get to hang out with people who understand. People who nod their heads at insightful words of other authors and who giggle at writer jokes. People who speak the same language and have the same problems. People who know that writing a book really is a lot harder than reading one. Yes, it’s largely about networking with agents, editors, other writers and all sorts of people in the industry. But, it’s also a place to be with other people who understand both the mechanical and spiritual issues of what I am trying to do on a very different level–a professional one at that–than family and friends.

Conferences remind me that I’m not alone in the solitary creation that is writing. I get to hang out with people who are doing exactly what I’m doing in entirely different ways and yet struggling with a lot of the same issues.

Note: The headshot of me at the top of this page was taken by Mark Bennington of Bennington Headshots. I couldn’t get the caption to accept the link directly, so here it is in a note.
And, Mark just spent some time in India photographing in Bollywood. He writes about his experience and has better links to all his work on his blog.

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