Guest Post by John Simmons
This is the first of two guest posts from John Simmons, author of ‘Leaves’.
The collaborative bonus
The old stereotype of the solitary writer, pen in hand, starving in a garret, is not true to reality. Except… In the end writing comes down to the transfer of thoughts from an individual brain to a form that can be read by many. So there is a solitary element, and I suspect most writers love that.
“The novelist is an egomane who refuses to delegate his job to anyone.”
John le Carré
But we are also social creatures and I love the feeling of writing alongside others, supporting and supported by others. Urbane, with its network of writers and readers, offers that. When Urbane published my novel Leaves it brought an end to a long, solitary wait for publication. I had written early drafts some decades ago then consigned it, spurred by the discouragement of mainstream publishers, to that loneliest of all places – the bottom drawer. But Matthew Smith of Urbane encouraged me to get it out and, remarkably quickly, it was being supported by readers and writers whose cause was to get books read that deserved to be read.
I had previously found the value of this collaborative approach through other projects I had initiated. In particular I had established two organisations focused on writing. The first was called 26 (after the number of letters in the alphabet). After a dozen years 26 has grown to a membership of 350+ writers, mainly drawn from the world of business writing.
Business writing has given me an income to subsidise other more personal forms of writing. I believe that writing for business needs to be more creative – there’s more than enough boring business writing out there. This philosophy is behind special projects run by 26 involving large numbers of writers focused on a single theme. Recently we had 26 Pairs of Eyes with the Foundling Museum and currently 26 Twits that celebrates the work of Roald Dahl.
The second organisation is Dark Angels. This started as a book with that name, setting out my philosophy of business writing, and it developed into a training programme that has now reached and influenced hundreds of writers. Along the way we have undertaken some spectacular collaborative events – an exhibition at the Story Museum (Other Worlds), and a collective novel (Keeping Mum) written by 15 writers (amazingly it worked). The writers involved become better writers through the involvement of other writers. There is a joy in working together with other writers and seeing how they take different angles on achieving the same objective.
This experience was distilled into three books that are now being republished by Urbane as the Dark Angels trilogy – the other two books are We, Me, Them & It and The Invisible Grail. Without wanting to sound like a cult, people claim that these books have changed their lives. They have certainly formed a network of writers who have the generosity to work with others and who believe in the absolute pleasure of writing as an essential, shared part of life.
‘Leaves’ is available to buy from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/john-simmons/