Get a Group

There are nine writing groups in my life. Each one unique, but three of them are mostly fun. I write a lot about having fun writing, because I believe that finding pleasure in what we do lets us do more of it. The three that I just referred to involve few rules and lots of writing.

In group one, five women gather every two weeks. First we talk and drink coffee. Whatever topic surfaces is good. Then we write for twenty minutes. This is not craft or critique work, but free flowing, whatever comes to the page. Usually, one or two main ideas surface in the conversation and we go with that soft focus, but if something individual needs attention, that’s fine, too. When time’s up we each read whatever we have, not to get help or correct anything, just to share the writing and react to the content. Because we have been together for several years, the level of trust is high and we can share even delicate information without fear of criticism or embarrassment.

Group two is fairly new, but again we meet every two weeks, in an artist’s studio and do three or four eight-minute free writes. This group grew out of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. The prompts come from the group at the moment we start. We abide by the timer and we keep the pen/pencil moving on the page, no time for editing thoughts or language. Often we have trouble reading our own handwriting, but that’s okay because, again, this is not craft but a chance to let our minds off their leashes and put words on paper as they come to us. In neither of these two groups is there any keyboard or screen. We write the way nature intended us to, with our hands. It’s finger painting with language.

Group three is an ongoing, larger, more organized group that meets at Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop in Denver. It’s called Friday 500, given the goal of each writer getting 500 words down in an hour. Because we do not share this work, the goal stays private. But the quiet attention to our work is a joy. There are beverages and cookies and comfortable chairs and tables. Here laptops and tablets and pens are the tools of choice. After an hour of silent, private work we reassemble in a classroom and join in a discussion or writing exercise where we do share as time and purpose allow.

If you are not involved in a writing group, think about creating or joining one. It takes a few tries to find or build one that fits your style and satisfaction, but it’s cheaper than a movie and more creative than television. (Well, for me almost anything is more creative than TV.) It’s free, it’s freeing, it’s social without the need for fancy clothes or equipment. It’s writing. Just do it.

Thanks again, Julia Cameron

Getting back to the blog makes me uneasy. What, after all this time away, do I have to offer? Tea and store-bought macaroons? New words? No, virtual tea’s weak, and the words are never new, just their arrangement. But the way I am as a writer is newish. Here’s what happened.

I read Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. And that changed almost everything. For years I’ve done the morning pages as she recommended in The Artist’s Way, but I had gone stale and in the search for a way to regain their power, I kept trying new journals, new pens, old pens, pencils. I was sure that I would find the right tools to please me and let me fall in love again with this early morning affair I have going with language. The fire had died in our romance. Well, Julia taught me a new trick, actually an old trick revamped and a vamp is a good thing in romance, eh? It’s not the tools that make for a good time. It’s the way you use them. I simply switched, at her suggestion, to fullsized pages, and wow! Like a king-sized bed, the page let me relax, unclench my pen and go at it. In ten days I’ve written 61 morning pages, although in truth some of them were afternoon delight.

Not only that, but I have another forty pages of what Julia calls a timeline. And that is pure synchronicity. She says to divide life into five-year chunks and write about whatever comes in each of those segments. About the same time I started this, with no particular reason but the joy of writing, I was granted access to a six-week memoir group that will start this month. And none of this very personal writing feels like wasted time or paper. I’m writing instead of fretting about what to write. The poems still come, I still read stacks of books, and spend time with friends. Life is full and I am grateful. Thanks, Julia.

Sabbatical w/Geese

Driving on Dillon Road yesterday I saw a hundred or more geese gabbling and pecking in a field just beyond the ditch, earthbound, hungry creatures. But against a clear sky one wild goose flew alone, against that empty background its aerodynamic shape elegant, every wing beat graceful, forceful and free. I have no idea why one individual left the flock and headed north, but I envied that bird and it became a symbol for me. Leaving the flock without fear became possible, maybe important, vital.

While I was sick–about half of December 2014–I fussed silently about all the tasks that¬† faced me once my energy crept back. Mind you, I was drained, so much so that at times I could not focus on a printed page, could not hold a book steady, let alone write. But in that dreary time I decided that I would find a way to simplify my work.

So–my boss is sending me on sabbatical. I am leaving the internet flock of anonymous, virtual birds, and keeping dear, clear, real faces close. If I know you, can see your eyes, shake your hand, hug you, I’m still here. But I didn’t leave my former work to become a social media slave. I left to be a writer. Writers write, and I mean to do that, marketing and PR be damned. How long will I be gone? How high the moon?

I’ll leave this website open and update as needed the publication list and the bookshelf. The links to Accidental Child will work, including a new option in early January for a print version. Maybe I’ll drop by, but mostly I’m flying solo into reality. Bye for now!

Social media hiatus

Having spent the past few days laid low by a simple but vicious head cold, I am still tired, so I’m putting myself on limited duty until after Christmas–no blog, no Face Book, Twitter, etc. Friends and family can still reach me by email, but the larger world will spin on its way without my supervision, I suspect. Hope all the upcoming holidays are pleasant. See you at the other end.

In a Common Place

A Commonplace Book

A Commonplace Book

As if I don’t have enough projects on my list, I’ve added another. This one is open ended and self assigned. I’m creating a commonplace book. Originally commonplace books were repositories for ideas, quotes, information unique to the collector of said info. My version is different. I’m gleaning material from the bulky journals stored in the closet near my office. My goal is to preserve and to prune, reduce the bulk but keep the essence of my morning pages and meanderings from the past couple of years. I take as my guide a phrase from Denise Levertov’s poem “The Five Day Rain”: “I don’t want to forget who I am . . . .” Reading the journals and copying whatever seems worth keeping is more than a guard against forgetting. I’m actually learning who I am. I’m more thoughtful than what the bulk of my scribbling would suggest.

I write often about my concern for people less fortunate than I in terms of material comfort. I write about those comforts, especially what faces me first in the morning,¬† luxuries like tea, warmth, quiet, privacy, a faithful dog, almost limitless ink and paper. I write about not being more productive, conversely that I have so much writing on backlog that I’ll never see most of it in print.

Transferring the pieces worth keeping is not as tedious as it might have been. I’m trying hard not to edit but to save just what was fresh on a given day. Some days yield nothing worth copying. I do keep quotes and the tiny reviews of what I read. If I cut, the cuttings are redundancies, flaccid passages, daily plans that mean nothing to anyone but me.

What use this commonplace book will have is yet to be seen. I imagine it outliving me as a succinct scrapbook of my mind for anyone who might want to know what another writer thinks about, what processes work, what topics recur, what worries hound me. If not, it’s just one more thing for the family to stash or trash as they see fit when I’m not around to defend it.