Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Making time, making the scene

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In yesterday’s blog post, I talked about using social media, specifically Twitter, to connect with other writers. But I also mentioned a dilemma in making real life connections.

The dilemma, like many of my dilemmas, centres on balance, time, and relationships.

At the beginning of this year, I didn’t make resolutions, but I did make plans. There were things I wanted to do, and one of them was that I would go to at least one literary event a month.

I think it’s important that, as a writer, I support other writers. Sometimes the people I’m going out to support are my friends. Sometimes they’re people I’ve never even heard of. Sometimes they’re people whose work I have been a long-time fan of.

Every time I go to a reading or a launch party, I go home feeling inspired, energized, and better connected than I was before I got there. So of course, because I usually leave feeling so good about what I just saw and heard and experienced, I want to go out and do it again.

But sometimes, I really do need a month’s time to get out to the next event.

We all know there is no shortage of stuff to do in this city. You could spend every night going out if you wanted to, and if you could afford to. The problem, for me at least, is having the time.

The reality is, as long as I have to have a day job, I can’t go out every single night, because I need to save some of those nights to work on my writing. And even if I didn’t have a day job and could have a more flexible writing schedule, I still don’t know if I’d want to go out every single night, but at least it would be an option.

For now, though, I have to accept that it isn’t.

But I think going to literary events can be an important part of a writer’s process, and I wish I could handle going with the flow better and incorporate it as a bigger part of my creative side. Interacting within a scene or community helps us connect to each other, and helps us shape the kind of creative city we want to live in. Our friends and families shouldn’t be the only ones making up the audience at a reading, but that’s the case at some events. I know because I’ve organized several.

But I also know what it’s like to have that feeling that you should be out somewhere, but you’re not because you’re inside writing, and vice versa. It’s a tough thing to grapple with because either way, you’re probably going to wonder if you made the right decision at the end of the night.
Time is limited, so prioritizing is important. One event a month for me is better than nothing, but I’d like it to be better.

Whether it can be is another question.

It’s important to know what works for you and what doesn’t, and I know I need a balance between going out and staying in. I need some quiet nights now and then. I need some nights where I’m not rushing from one place to another, hoping to at least have enough time to shower or wash those piling dishes or something that would give me some semblance of organization before going to bed. Sometimes, it’s those “maybe” plans – “maybe I’ll check that out,” “maybe I’ll see you there,” “I RSVP’d as a ‘maybe’ on Facebook” - that tend to be literary events, or shows, or art openings, or whatever. All linked to supporting and experiencing creative work, but not all things we feel we can commit an absolute “yes” to.

But we have friends and boyfriends and girlfriends and families that we all need to make time for. There are other interests, too. There are gym memberships and books to read and trips to plan.

I’ve always had a 416-area code phone number, which means I know a lot of people from a lot of different points of my life. I have a friend from Grade 1, friends from Grade 8, high school, bad retail jobs, college, and even bars I’ve spent too much time in. They aren’t all creative types. In fact, we’re all pretty different from each other, but there’s something that clicks between us, and that’s why we keep hanging out.

I didn't grow up with other people who wanted to publish books one day. I was on my own on that. Sometimes I hear of writers who get published to critical acclaim around the same time, and talk about their friendship with each other. I didn't have that as I came of age, and even though I've since made friends with other writers, I still feel on the outside sometimes.

Would I change it? No. I like my friends. Would I like to open up my life to more people, though? Yes, definitely.

A number of years ago I remember meeting a guy who pretty much lived his life to rack up scenester status. If an old friend wasn’t into the same stuff he was, then the old friend would be suddenly dropped to make room for someone new. It was all about how many people he knew in a club or how many shows he went to in a month. He had no interest in checking out a new bar if it didn’t fit into his style and he had no interest in people who weren’t interested in the same things he was.

I don’t ever want to be that guy, and I don’t think many other people do, either, because it seems pretty boring to limit yourself to the same people and the same places all the time, and it's definitely shitty (and so high school) to ditch friends you love just for the sake of something new.

There have been times when I've sought out new friends and tried to expand social experiences into new circles, and with new people. Sometimes I just wanted people to party with, sometimes I wanted to find other poets. And sometimes I ended up finding what I wanted.

I feel like I have to tap into that goal again. I feel like the effort I'm making is okay, but I don't know that it's keeping me as connected as it could be.

But when I look at the literary community that Toronto has, I see a lot of diversity – in venues, in emerging writers, in writers I’ve yet to discover, in styles and performances and personalities.

I want to be out there more. Like I said in yesterday’s post, I want to connect. It’s just finding that right balance – one that doesn’t mean I have to ignore my writing or my old friends or my routines, but one that keeps allowing my life to open up to new possibilities and a deeper sense of community.

How do you fit it all in? How do you have a life of writing and work and relationships and still stay connected to the literary community?

I want to know if you’ve found a balance that works for you.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Liz Worth 2011

Liz Worth is the Toronto-based author of Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions, 2011), Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond 1977-1981 (Bongo Beat/ECW, 2011) and Eleven: Eleven (Trainwreck Press, 2008), a shot of surreal punk fiction.

Go to Liz Worth 2011’s Author Page