I got this message via Twitter today:
Today, I am feeling weak and drained, word-worn and wan. But Cindy’s message, it’s like a spark that find tinder I didn’t know I had. “If Cindy appreciates what I have to say, maybe I can keep going.”
Yesterday, a friend wrote to three of us, a little coterie of other writers that has formed via the glorious binary of the internet, to tell us how something was being “worked out in him” about publication and about aging and about how this writing thing is wrapped up with our identities in ways we cannot extract and don’t always love.
Within a few hours, we had each replied with words of sympathy and encouragement, sharing our own struggles and fears. Each email felt like someone was pouring a little cool water on the tips of my fingers that had been burned by the writing life.
A few weeks ago, I spent three days running into people whose faces had been only thumbnails until we met over the free coffee at a conference. I greeted, I chatted, I even hugged. (I’m not a hugger.) I spent time with people I’ve known for decades and with others I hope to know for the rest of my life.
I came home totally full, absolutely exhausted, and with the first cold I’ve had in 9 months. All of those things came as gifts, tissue-laden and rich, from moments when I could feel the heat radiate from another person’s skin.
It is so very easy, in this writing life, to hunker down and “do the work,” to tuck myself away into my office with two heaters, a hot beverage, and five open computer tabs. I can go weeks where the only people I see are the ones who come to me: my husband, my father, my soon-to-be step-mom, my in-laws.
Sometimes, I must shut myself away, refuel in the solitude and silence of my work. Sometimes, I need the focus that I can only achieve when I’m spending most of my days saturated in words already written.
But other times, these notes from friends, these missives of the digital, these conversations over coffee with too much cream and sugar are just as necessary. A big hunk of fresh-based, coarse bread, a perfectly-spiced slice of meat, and a pear – sustenance for the writer’s journey.
And that’s how I see community – both face-to-face and digital – in my writer’s life. The times I interact with other people in real, rich, not mediated ways, they are like my traveler’s rations that I wrap in a clean piece of cloth torn from my grandfather’s work shirt. I carry them with me for the next set of days alone here in this room with my computer.
I wouldn’t survive the journey without them.
About the Author: Andi Cumbo-Floyd
Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives on 15 blissful acres at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 6 goats, 4 dogs, 4 cats, and 22 chickens. Her books include Steele Secrets, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out. You can connect with Andi at her website, andilit.com, or via Facebook and Twitter.
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for a little face-to-face community to carry you on your journey, Andi is hosting a Writer’s Retreat at her farm in Virginia. You can get more details here – http://andilit.com/writers-retreat-at-gods-whisper-farm Relax, learn, share stories, and help each other find footing for the next days’ walk.