22 July 2013

When Writers Write Together

by Susan Lawson

As writers write together in my house
clouds gather outside
and close the door on the sun
so our shadows can play

After the writers leave my house
rain pelts
     down in
          torrents and
gives the grass back its breath
gives the flowers back their sighing
gives the sky over to its
long       sought-after      release
then washes the road
each writer
travels home.

These words came to me this morning as I looked out the window over my desk onto another gray and rainy day. But instead of it depressing me, I thought about how fresh and green everything looked now that we'd experienced a few consecutive days of rain after more than a week of hot and dry days. 

The lady's mantle I planted in the spring displays a shimmer of droplets in its cape-like leaves. A spider web that spans the space between a large rock and a cat statue, beneath which one of my kitties is buried, now supports a blanket of glistening raindrops. The cup of a geode half collects water like a miniature birdbath, and a male goldfinch drinks from it.

This time the dry spell broke on Saturday morning, shortly after my writing group broke up around noon. My writers had just enough time to make it to their cars and start home before the rain let loose in a riotous downpour. A couple sent me emails later, noting that the storm went with them, whether they traveled north or south.

I have regular writers in this group who come most every week. I have others who pop in and out about once a month or so. And then there are all the other writers--you perhaps--who I've encountered in the years I've taught who never come to a group at all, now that they aren't made free by the library. I worry about them. I wonder what keeps them going. I think that's where this poem comes from.

Something happens when we gather together and write. Whatever this something is, it gets better the longer we do it and the more we get to know the other writers in our group and their voices. We learn from each other. Not only techniques to try in our own poems or stories or essays, but how to live braver and truer, how to not be so hard on ourselves, how to see beauty wherever we find ourselves, how to listen and bear witness, and perhaps most importantly, how to play and have fun.

I write more on my own when I write regularly in a group. I also write better. I find more stories to tell. I hear more poetry in my everyday life. I can't put a price on this, though in my group I charge a fee for others to attend and spend this time with me. 

Believe me, what I charge doesn't even begin to offset my addictions to office supplies and books! But it does convey the message that to live the writing life will cost us something. There will be other things and people we must learn to say no to if we are to say yes to our writing. Mostly it's difficult to say yes with how we spend our time. Sometimes investing our money in the direction we want our time to go moves us down the right road.

If you'd like to write in a group, details about my Saturday group can be found here and here. If Saturday mornings don't work for you, let me know what would in the comments section (your personal information will not appear). If I can get enough people interested in meeting another day, I'll start a second group! Or, consider individual coaching; it's a little pricier but more in-depth. Details for that are here.

And if none of these suggestions are options for you right now, paper, pens and pencils comes in all price ranges, and the library carries lots of books on writing. Listed below are some of my favorites. So stock up, and don't forget your umbrella!