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             Writing is a unique kind of solitude. I sit by myself at the computer, but I’m lost in whatever world I’m writing, full of the characters that live there. I can’t say that I feel alone when I write, but it is a thing I do alone. For a very long time, even when the writing was done, it remained a thing in isolation, since I wouldn’t share it with anyone.

              I’m very lucky to have a few dear friends who are also writers, and they provided a lot of my early encouragement to both write, and to share my work. When I first started writing again, one of these friends recommended an online course to me. The lovely Renee Hartleib runs a few different online classes, and she provides helpful, constructive and supportive feedback. I ended up taking two of her classes, and they were extremely helpful. She provided daily prompts, and the participants would share their work in a private group online.

              I was terrified to share what I’d written. It was too personal, what if someone actually saw me? Or even worse, what if they saw this personal thing, and didn’t like it? Clearly that would be a rejection on a fundamental level of me as a human being, and something that one couldn’t be expected to recover from.

              I made myself do it anyway. I reasoned to myself that these were strangers and I didn’t have to care if they rejected me (even though I would, obviously). Surprisingly, the world didn’t end. It was even – dare I say it? – a positive experience. Suddenly I was getting useful feedback on my writing that helped me improve. I was seeing what other writers were experimenting with, and seeing that their stuff didn’t come out perfect the first time either. Most importantly, I was learning that things I had to say could actually affect others, make them see the places and people I saw, and feel things for those people and places. Suddenly my writing wasn’t living in isolation.

              This experience emboldened me, and I signed up for the Toronto Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup group. They run a variety of events, but my first was a meeting where writers would bring in a piece of work, read it to the group, and the group then offers feedback to help improve the piece. I didn’t share anything my first time, but I quickly realized that the group was helpful, always constructive and deeply insightful. Seeing how respectfully they handled each other’s work, I was brave enough to share a piece at my next meeting.

              I’m a regular attendee with that group now, and it’s made a world of difference. I’ve learned how to accept feedback without taking it personally, and I’ve learned so much about analyzing and articulating my own reactions to things I read, beyond “I liked it”. They’ve provided support and motivation, help with editing and feedback, and resources for publishing. Sharing with them has given me the courage to start sharing my work with friends and family, and whose opinions I truly care about. I’m still lagging on this front, but I’m getting better, and I think my writing is better for it.

              Writing alone, and writing in solitude are, in my mind, very different things. Things I wrote alone were never shared, and lived only on the page and in my head. If I didn’t remember those worlds, they would crumble and disappear. The things I write in solitude are shared, or will be. Daring to let other people see those worlds I create makes them stronger and more real. They don’t live in my head alone anymore. Writing alone was lonely, isolated, and a fertile breeding ground for self-doubt. Writing in solitude has been enriching, rewarding and confidence-building. The awareness of this difference is starting to seep into the rest of my life. I used to want to “be alone”. I’m more conscious now of how that time alone is spent, because really, it’s solitude I seek – that place where I make something for myself, by myself, but with the intent to put it out into the world for others to see.

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