by David Sloan
"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life…. Writers should work alone. They should see each
other only after their work is done, and not too often then.” That quotation comes from Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist. He committed suicide.
“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” That quotation
comes from Franz Kafka, the Czech/German novelist whose works were marked by angst
and alienation. One of his biographers wrote that the “roots of his anxiety and despair … lie
in a sense of ultimate isolation from true communion with all human beings….”
Writing can be a solitary business, and even gregarious writers need time to themselves
so that they can write. But too much solitude can lead to a sense of isolation and even
Writers need the fellowship of other writers.
In contrast to Hemingway and Kafka, two New Testament writers urged believers to
spend time encouraging other Christians.
The apostle Paul insisted, “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you
are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
The author of Hebrews proclaimed, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love
and good works, not neglecting to meet together … but encouraging one another.” (10:24-25)
Most writers know the benefits of spending time with other writers.
A writing conference, such as the SCWC, multiplies the benefits. It’s an opportunity for
attendees to spend time not with just one other writer but with many. At the SCWC it is a
common sight to see two or three or several writers having conversations about what they
are working on or difficulties they are facing. Sometimes their conversations are simply
about sharing their joy of writing.
When Joanne (my wife), our daughter (Cheryl), and I started the SCWC almost three
whole decades ago, we all agreed that it should be an encouraging conference. We believe it has succeeded. Every year numerous writers have told us that the conference reignited
their excitement. In fact, so many have told us the same thing that we have lost count of the
Their excitement is contagious. It has been our tradition each year to have a family
meeting at a restaurant immediately after the conference ends. It helps us to wind down.
We talk about people we met, comments we heard, what went well, and ideas for
improving the conference. There’s an air of excitement all around the table. Needless to say,
being around all the writers and wannabe writers gives us a charge. And we already start
looking forward to the next year’s conference.
No doubt, many of the conference attendees feel the same way. What a weekend we’ve
all had! And what encouragement to be in the company of other writers. We go home with
renewed excitement about our own writing.
Sometimes the job of writing is solitary, but there is enormous value in being around
other writers at a conference.
We can’t wait until this year’s!
David Sloan is the co-founder with his wife of the Southern Christian Writers Conference. He's a professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Alabama, and founded the American Journalism Historians Association, the AJHA Southeast Colloquim, and the Southeast Journalism Conference. He is the author of 45 books, and will be presenting the session "Gems of Writing Wisdom, From Samuel Johnson to Stephen King" at this year's SCWC on June 4-5.