Longtime readers of this blog may recall my interview of Katey Schultz in August, 2017. She sent an inspirational postcard to me, and we chatted about her postcard campaign and building a community of writers. Here’s her current bio:
Katey Schultz’s story collection, Flashes of War, was awarded IndieFab Book of the Year and received a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America. She has won more than half a dozen flash fiction contests, been awarded writing fellowships in 8 states, and is currently seeking a publisher for her novel set in Afghanistan. Learn more at www.kateyschultz.com.
Hi Katey. Thanks for checking in with us again.
How can we, as writers and creative people, keep going in the face of disappointments and distractions?
I think one thing that really helps is to find ways to be seen or understood as a writer and creative person. There are so many tiny, invisible victories in the writing life–a choice to revise a single sentence so it’s more powerful. Replacing one verb with a better verb. Nailing a powerful metaphor. These things happen privately, alone–and are rarely if ever celebrated. But if we have something we can show up to on a regular basis that makes space for the fact that we’re all experiencing these victories, and disappointments, then the enduring process of being a writer can feel far less isolating. In other words, I really DO believe that it’s possible to write alone and to write often or at least consistently, while ALSO connecting with others in ways that uplift and support us, rather than cut us off or distract us. It’s a fine balance to achieve, but I’ve spend the past 10 years trying to recreate it through my business mentoring other writers, and it’s one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.
How can we be seen or understood by others, and help others be seen?
How “being seen” or “feeling understood” actually manifests can be different for every writer. But I do believe there are some common denominators. For instance, taking a collective moment to let go of any writing expectations or agendas can be a huge relief to folks. About a year ago, I started adding a brief grounding message at the start of every class and webinar that I taught. It was surprisingly well received! So even just taking 1-2 minutes to let someone else be in charge of providing a space of creative permission and validation can lift a huge weight off a writer’s shoulders and help them feel understood.
Being seen can be trickier, because of course we think that the ultimate goal is publication…and we often compare our drafts to the published and edited and proofed versions we read on our bookshelves. Holding up our first or second or fifth drafts to a prize-winning book that had a literal TEAM of editors, marketers, copyeditors, and in some cases developmental writers behind it is not only unfair, but unproductive. So – yes – being published is a great and perfectly valid way to be seen. But there are many, many steps between the seed of a story idea and the story finally finding its wider audience. My goal is to acknowledge some of those steps along the way by encouraging writers to post daily word counts or share an opening paragraph from a free write or to share pictures of edited pages amongst a group of other writers, as a way of being seen “in process” and helping us bridge the gap.
I’ve heard great things about your Airstream Dispatches project. Can you give us some info on it?
Sure! It started out two years ago as an experiment with 6 writers…and has grown into a worldwide book club for writers that focus on gentle accountability, craft lessons, prompts, and support. Together, we read 6 books in 6 months and gather for 6 live webinars and prompts. The experiment is now in its third year and has become and innovative network that helps writers in a variety of concrete ways. In this network, writers can:
connect with one another to whatever extent they want (not at all, for instance, or by forming offshoots of critique groups if a subset of writers is especially motivated)
connect with me, the instructor, by email at any time
share drafts from prompts, questions about craft, or general writing process challenges and victories
benefit from bonus links and interviews with featured authors via a private Facebook group
study 6 books in 6 months, and join 6 webinars (one per month) for craft lessons and prompts based on those readings
or, go completely minimalist, skip the readings, and simply show up for the 1 hour webinar each month and write, hear others’ writings, learn, and feel supported (and if a writer has a schedule conflict, recordings of all webinars are provided!)
Anything else you’d like to share?
I guess I’d like to hear from more writers about what “accountability” and being seen or understood means to them. I am NOT someone who actually spends a lot of time online. And I prefer a distraction-free environment to write and read. However, I’ve found a way to feel supported and connected by using the Internet in smart, useful, non-addicitive ways that have proven to be surprisingly meaningful to my writing life. I don’t think I’m the only one out there experiencing this, but I want to hear how others get the connection and support they need. I welcome comments here or direct emails to: katey.schultz[at]gmai[dot]com.
Here are some links to connect with Katey and learn more about Airstream Dispatches:
Send me an email! I believe in meaningful communication and never feel like hearing from writers is spammy.