I had been searching for the right outlet for some months, but the opportunities I'd previously discovered weren't a good fit for one reason or another. Then at the end of the summer, I heard about a "Writing For Fun" group that meets a few miles from my home each fall and spring. The fall session wasn't going to begin for a few weeks, and though I would be away and unable to make the first meeting, I knew it was the right match once I talked to the facilitator. When I finally joined, I discovered it was a serendipitous connection.
It turns out the facilitator belonged to another writing group I'd wanted to try, but which is farther away...and I didn't have a contact or any information about the format. But now I got the information I needed about that one from this new friend, and realized I had two new groups to investigate!
Then when I showed up for the first meeting of the "Writing For Fun" group, I saw somebody I knew! The location felt like home and was perfect for our needs. I wish I had known about this group years before, but it wasn't publicized much. We met once a week for two months before the facilitator had to leave town for a while, but a couple of weeks after we stopped meeting, I felt twitchy, so I contacted the other members to ask if they wanted to continue through the winter with me spearheading the group.
They said yes, and we managed to find a schedule that would allow more "regulars" to attend more sessions. One of the writers had the idea that we could rotate the job of facilitator from week to week, and I liked that idea. Despite our efforts to recruit more people, there was always a reason why new people couldn't show up. We remained a core group of a half-dozen writers.
(Meanwhile, I was able to attend a few sessions at the other writing group—the one farther away—and found it equally stimulating and rewarding, but for some reason, my schedule often conflicted with that one and it didn't become a part of my life very much.)
For each meeting of "Writing For Fun," we give ourselves two assignments to complete in 15 minutes each, share our creations, and also share a homework assignment given the week before. We allow ourselves the freedom to create whatever comes to mind based on the prompt we're given, and we can write a poem, an essay, a story or just random thoughts. Sometimes we take prompts from a book or magazine, make up writing topics, or use objects as imspiration to write about. We give praise to one another, but no constructive criticism, because the idea is not to polish the writing, but simply to express ourselves and have fun.
We're now on a holiday break, but I wanted to write about some things that have really amazed me about the experience—so far.
First, and most obvious, is the way writing together develops friendships. Our age range spans decades, but when you share a love of writing, age and writing experience or literary preferences don't matter. Everyone has a different strength (whether creating fiction, poetry, descriptive or opinionated essays, etc.) but you can see that what matters is the desire to write and stretch one's mind. For ninety minutes we put ourselves on the spot to come up with words to suit our assignments, and so we have to channel raw thoughts and spontaneously right from our spirit. There is an inherent camaraderie among fellow writers, whereby even if you know nothing about the person sitting next to you, you have a connection that binds you just because of what ends up on paper.
The second thing I observed is that despite our own unique writing talents, everyone is still insecure. I think insecurity is a trait inherent in creatives/artists in general. It takes courage to express yourself in front of strangers! In our group, we not only have to expose our personal ideas to strangers, but we read them aloud. So speaking about and revealing your innermost thoughts and writing style is a two-fold experience! I found it comforting to see that everyone has their own level of discomfort within the group, but everybody gives it their best, and everybody supports one another. There is no judgment!
A third thing I observed is that everyone's unique interpretations astounded me. This is when you really get to witness creativity in motion! One person's beautiful ability to compose rhyming poetry on the spot came shining through (and she reads it like a voiceover expert too!). Another person has this amazing ability to pull inspiration from historical events or children's literary works and use it as a basis for our exercises. Another person writes essays so articulately, in a way that I wish I could, that I sit there thinking "Damn, I wanted to say that but she said it so much better than I could have."
Another person uses amazing life stories as the basis for her writing, so we get to learn about her worldwide adventures and lifelong experiences. And another person has a witty style that makes me smile because I see a lot of myself in their work. It's a really special thing to see how one 15-minute assignment produces creations that are all different and cause the group members to smile, laugh, feel amazed, feel moved, and feel inspired to go on! And we learn about ourselves, about each other, and about humanity at the same time.
One example of an exercise that really went the distance was our homework assignment to write about what it would be like to live away from society like Thoreau did for two years, two months, and two days in his cabin in the woods at Walden Pond. When we convened to read our homework, some of us had brought in books about Thoreau to share certain quotes or inspirations from his life. We discussed what it was like in his day and what it was like to visit the site in Concord, NH, today. We found ourselves having a huge discussion about this literary icon, all because of an idea from one of our fellow writers to consider the life of Thoreau in our own writing.
"Creativity in motion." That's definitely the phrase that describes what happens in our group. It's a time one day each week when my new friends and I can just come together and dig into the core of our beings and see what develops.
I look forward to sharing more about this in the new year!
This post Copyright © 2014 by Cheryl E. Kraynak