The Writer, Alone in a Village

Writing is a strange pursuit. A writer works endless hours in solitary, personal work then, after what seems like an eternity, takes their work out to a world of editors, agents, critics, and readers.

Even if you self-publish and desire to skip any outside editorial input, your work will be picked up and read by people who will either endorse or criticize, letting you know right away what they think.

Professional writers balance individual and collaborative aspects of the work. Print media writers were always at the mercy of their editors. Often, the final published column or article bore little resemblance to what was originally submitted, at least in length, if not substance.

I’m reminded of a quote from the designer of the BMC Mini automobile in 1959, when he said, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” The Mini was named the second most-influential car of the 20th century, after the Model T Ford. The inference from Sir Alec Issigonis is that collaboration can go terribly wrong. Sure, this can happen; but camels are still valuable and interesting animals, just a little different than the blueprints for a horse. And they can go longer without water.

The tension you feel when criticism is leveled at you in the editing process can be transformed into constructive iron-sharpening if you submit yourself to the type of creative collaboration found in small writers groups or at one of the many writers conferences held throughout the year. While you may write alone, you are part of a “village,” offering support, encouragement, and helpful critique. Since what you write in private eventually goes public, exposing it to mostly supportive constructive criticism before it goes out into the world can only be positive.

You are an individual, reliant on a village. And then you become part of the village supporting others along the way. There’s a metaphor from nature that explains this better than I could ever hope to.

Aspen trees are beautiful parts of God’s creation. But what looks like a single tree is simply an above-ground manifestation of a massive root system that connects thousands of trees. If you gaze across a mountainside or valley at a huge aspen forest, you are actually looking at one organism.

Above ground, they appear to be individual trees; but they are supported by an interconnected single root system.

Applying this to your life, family, church, or the body of Christ in general illuminates how God uses nature to give us a glimpse into some understanding of how he works.

Don’t be an unconnected solitary writer. You won’t weather the challenges.

For a great article on aspens, click here.

8 Responses to The Writer, Alone in a Village

  1. Kim Vogel Sawyer September 29, 2021 at 5:21 am #

    Very true and well-stated. Thank you.

    • Robin Puchala September 29, 2021 at 5:52 am #

      Perhaps the system of roots of the aspen tree is what was the inspiration for the Avatar movie!
      Appreciated the reminder to stay connected while being a solitary writer. It was never more important than during the pandemic!

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 29, 2021 at 5:30 am #

    One thing cancer’s taught must be
    (and I’ve learned quite a lot),
    is that I can’t just count on me,
    ’cause it takes more than I’ve got
    to fight through the vicissitudes
    that thicket every day,
    when all falls down, and naught improves,
    and I am left to pray
    with faint words gone weary, weak
    from the madding pain,
    and then friends come to seek
    me out, and then to remain
    by my side, by loving choice
    in chorus of clear prayerful voice.

  3. Roberta Sarver September 29, 2021 at 5:40 am #

    Another wonderful sonnet, Andrew. And Dan, I appreciate your reference to aspen trees. God shows His personality in amazing ways, if we just stop and follow the clues.

  4. Kristen Joy Wilks September 29, 2021 at 6:05 am #

    Thanks for the reminder, Dan. When you are the only writer in your family or church group, it can be hard to grow those connections. It has taken me years, but going to a local writer’s conference yearly has really helped form those connections. I love Aspen trees and where we live, if you see an Aspen grove, you know that there is a natural spring somewhere beneath. It is too dry here for them to grow anywhere else and they appear as beautiful islands in the meadow or within the conifer forest. So lovely! I wish I could post a picture here of our aspens as they are changing color right now. But yes, they certainly illustrate that connection with others that we need to cultivate.

  5. Darla Grieco September 29, 2021 at 7:18 am #

    What a beautiful metaphor! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Kay DiBianca September 29, 2021 at 7:45 am #

    Thanks, Dan, for this great reminder:

    “And then you become part of the village supporting others along the way.” We sometimes forget that part of our responsibility as authors is to feed others.

  7. Marsha E Young September 29, 2021 at 8:36 am #

    This article was well-written and insightful. Thank you.

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