Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

You Gotta Have Friends by Martha Reed

I’ve repeatedly heard that writing is a lonely and solo profession because of the demanding nature of creative thought. Choosing the right words to string into a perfect sentence takes thoughtful and uninterrupted concentration. Building that sentence into full-bodied paragraphs to structure an 85,000 word novel involves thousands of focused hours and a hearty in-house supply of coffee or tea.

There’s a reason we whisper in libraries where other people are absorbing great thoughts and it has nothing to do with disturbing the books housed on the shelves. It’s about the way we activate our minds to think through and construct creative thoughts. I sometimes wonder about the monks working away in their scriptoriums. I’m sure their vows of silence certainly helped.

Distractions are the bane of my output. Once I’m in the flow and I get disturbed it’s almost impossible to pick up the threads of that broken creative thought and successfully knit it back together. Sure, I might get the original idea down on paper, but somehow the elegance of that thought evaporates under my questing fingers even as I strive to capture it. My readers may never know that the thought break occurred, but I still flinch whenever I re-read that recast sentence knowing that somehow something better was lost.

Some writers are better at this necessary self-isolation because they have naturally introverted personalities. These writers are happiest when left alone to explore their vision and build their brave new worlds. Introverts generally hate marketing and self-promotion side of the business although they admit it’s a necessary evil. Extroverted writers use self-discipline to block off specific hours of each day cut off from the distraction of family and friends to ensure they hit their daily word count. Both approaches are right. Writers know that we need to do whatever it takes to get our stories told.

The irony is that as soon as we’re done with one story we start doing it all over again!

It’s not all grimness and toil. One benefit of a writing life that I want to celebrate more is being part of an extraordinarily welcoming and inclusive community of like-minded souls especially after 2020, our isolation year. Despite rarely leaving my home, I still felt fully engaged between reading the daily ListServ digests, the burgeoning weekly Zoom meetings and the super informative podcasts and online conferences. Yes, I did miss seeing everyone face-to-face and meeting up for coffee, drinks or sharing a joke or a meal, but I believe that day will come. To cement my belief in the future, I’ve registered for the 2021 Bouchercon convention to be held in New Orleans, LA in August. Happy days! I can already imagine the noise level in the NOLA Hilton’s bar.

And one social media benefit are the pop-up reminders of previous fun get togethers. Eight years ago, the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime produced its LUCKY CHARMS – 12 Crime Tales anthology. A photo of our launch event popped up on my Facebook page recently. I’m still warmed when I see all of those happy shining smiles.

With the new year, let’s take a moment to recognize the true and extraordinary gift of writerly fellowship, community, and friends. Here’s hoping for renewed focus and a joyous 2021!



Kait said...

Lovely post, Martha.

Having worked from a home with for the past fifteen years with a retired husband in residence I have gotten accustomed to holding that thought. There is a definite learning curve in the process. I jot down a few nouns and a verb and find it allows me to recreate the creative process that was interrupted.

Social media has been a saving grace during the pandemic, but like you, I'm looking forward for some face to face time!

Jim Jackson said...

Well said. I've found the mystery writing community to be wonderful to be a part of.

Martha Reed said...

Cait - It took me a month to break my old 9-5 habit, but once I relaxed I've learned to love it. I find myself writing my morning sprint (e.g., daily word count) and sneaking back to the manuscript in the afternoon to tweak a detail or add a few more words. It works for me!

And Jim - I agree. I've appreciated the mystery community since my very first Malice Domestic conference where my sister took one look at the participants and said "There are 300 Marthas in here." This community has been a Godsend during the pandemic.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

2020 went well, though I'm not used to having my telecommuting husband around all day every day. Webinars, a zoom critique session with the Buckeye Crime Writers (thank you, Connie Berry), two agent critiques.

Martha Reed said...

Hi Margaret - Yes, 2020 brought a bushel of changes including the ubiquitous Zoom meetings. Going forward I wonder how Zoom meetings will impact our stories? I remember rewriting plot points when cellphones came on board and everyone suddenly had one. Who will write the first virtual via Zoom murder mystery?

Cheryl said...

I've gotten a lot of writing done since lockdown, but I'm missing face-to-face. Can't wait to see you at Bouchercon.

Susan said...

I agree that I’ll be so happy to live in a world where we can go to conferences again and meet readers in person.

Annette said...

I've registered for Bouchercon but find myself having doubts about whether I'll be able to get vaccinated in time to attend.

Participating in the Lucky Charms anthology was SO much fun! That signing at Mystery Lovers is still one of my favorites.

KM Rockwood said...

I'm grateful for the support of the writing community. It makes a huge difference.

Distractions are the bane of my writing attempts! Since my husband needs constant care, I find I don't get the blocks of uninterrupted time that would enable me to work on novels. I do keep my hand in by writing short stories, which I love, but it's "not the same."

Martha Reed said...

Susan, you're right! Part of the conference fun is meeting new readers and getting them excited about reading my work. And I've got crazy stories about meeting famous authors in cafeteria lines and on elevators. Let's hope that we can knock the top off COVID-19 and get back to enjoying the conferences and social events again. I miss catching up with my crew.

Shari Randall said...

2020 has been a year of distractions! But like you, Martha, I've found Zoom meetings and seminars with friends in the writing community to be life savers. I haven't signed up for Bouchercon yet, but now you've inspired me. Are you signed up for Malice?

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Thanks for this post, Martha. I'm so grateful for technology and the opportunity to connect online with readers and writers. Here's to a bright 2021!