It all started here
by Jon Egan
Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, and it becomes even lonelier when you’re trying to solve plot issues, or character development, or storyline or one of the many other little or not so little issues that creep into a writers psyche to mess with the very kernels of creativity right when they are about to pop. Most times we sit and stare at the blinking cursor, or we scribble imaginative doodlebugs where there ought to be imaginative words, and we obsess over the perfect replacement for that cliché we inadvertently inserted during another period of creative whiteout.
For me at least, these periods typically end in frustration and slivers from my dried out windowsill sticking out of my butt cheek (long story, although one that undoubtedly will find it’s way into a manuscript at some stage.) This past week, however, was very different and very special and very welcomed and very – insert sigh – much needed, because this past week was the Swagger Reunion, and even though half the group couldn’t make it, the half that did really made it worthwhile.
My latest manuscript, which in fact is my oldest, had been as lonely as a donut vendor at a Weight Watchers convention (although, how lonely would that bloke really be?) It had been sitting deep in the recesses of MS Word for more than a few years. It had cobwebs hanging from its comma splices; the characters had aged to the point that they were almost unrecognizable; the run-on sentences weren’t running anymore, they were struggling forward with the aid of a walking stick. (I could go on, but by now I’m sure you’ve figured out your own silly metaphors?) I knew I wasn’t ready to completely abandon it, but I just couldn’t figure out what the story was and why or if it was worth writing.
In the style of moderated workshops, we had sent each other our works-in-progress to read and critique. I sent out a short story rather than my middle grade Moby Dick, but by the time these wonderful people arrived in Lake Arrowhead, I had decided that this would be as good a time as any to see if I should just hold down the delete button on this tired old friend or if I should set the tabs, choose the font and plow ahead in twelve-point thoughts and get it done. I’m extremely thankful to my fellow attending Swaggers for assisting me in my decision. Thanks to that most precious gift of actually sitting as a group and throwing story ideas and narrative arc around like stale popcorn at a film noir festival, we worked through it as a group, and I am thankful now that I hovered my index finger over that delete key. I’m excited about my new WIP, and I’m looking forward to dragging those aging characters with me to sip from the Fountain of Youth.
I do indeed have many things to be thankful for this November, but for now, I’m thankful for my fellow Swaggers. I’m thankful because they let me follow the journey of two civil war soldiers who ultimately end up on the same path. I’m thankful because I was transported twenty-three hundred miles to walk with a muleskinner on the Ohio-Erie Canal. I’m thankful for their ability to open my eyes to the possibility of kick-ass machines with human DNA who thrive in spite of overwhelming odds. I’m thankful that I have an amazing group of people around me I can call on at any time to help me move my story forward, and I’m thankful that those people indeed have the ability, in spite of the overwhelming odds facing us writers, to write with Swag.