I spent a good part of last weekend traveling around to bookstores in Seattle, meeting local authors. The fabulous Sherman Alexie organized a terrific group of independent writers who volunteered their time to talk about their books, and to recommend others that they loved. It was an eye-opening experience.
Writing can be a really lonely pursuit. When I was writing Women's Work, it was easy for me to start to think I was the only person in the world working on a book -- there wasn't an office to sit in, a water-cooler to hang around, or people close by to bounce ideas off. Fortunately, I was self-motivated by the story, and there were days I couldn't wait to start writing (those 3 hours between dropping off and picking up kids). But I still would have loved feeling like I was part of a community.
Last weekend I realized that there are dozens and dozens of successful, very cool writers all around Seattle, and though we don't all sit around in an office together, I feel their camaraderie, their commiseration, and their support.
It reminded me a lot of motherhood. I live on a street with 20 kids on my block, most of them under 8-years old. Many nights I sat in my rocking chair, nursing a baby in the middle of the night, wishing I could be asleep in my bed. And one thing that was a great comfort to me at those times was the knowledge that there was probably at least one other mom at that very moment doing exactly the same thing.
We used to joke that we should have a secret signal, a special light we would turn on outside when we were awake at 2am, 3am, 4am so that all the other moms could just look out their windows and see it. Sort of a 'bat signal' for motherhood, so we would know we were not alone. Knowing someone else is going through the same thing as you are can give a person the strength and courage to keep going.