How many times have I heard a fellow writer announce, “I don’t feel like writing today” or “I just don’t have anything to say,” only to then produce an astonishing couple of pages, pages that move the entire group to a stunned silence. Tears even.
Maybe feeling a little fatigued or muted allows surrender? And maybe that surrender allows us to mine our own depth in a productive way.
Similarly, how many times have I heard a fellow writer say before reading I don’t even know what this is or this is a bit of a ramble, only to then hear a knock-your-socks-off passage?
Such equivocating has been followed by an impressive piece of writing so often that I’ve come to view it as a signal. I sit up straighter.
Lately I find myself often saying I don’t know what this is. And I mean it. It’s not a rant or a lament. Its not memoir. It’s not a scene in a new novel. Or is it?
As creators, we hear over and over that one must go where the writing wants to take you. You might think that money is your topic, only to start writing and find that it’s sex. You might think you’re done talking about your mother, only to recall in excruciating detail something that happened fifty years ago. We do ourselves a real disservice if we ignore those directions.
To go where the writing wants to take you requires a willingness to plumb our own depths. It requires trust. Oddly, self-trust might not be as important as trust in your writers’ circle.
In a good group, the others hold your words with reverent care and comment with insight and enthusiasm. They may hear things we’re only half conscious of or link us to well-known writers in a way that enlarges confidence and self-awareness. We come away feeling more capable.
And if what we have shared is personally painful, we also feel heard. This is deeply therapeutic. These circles are not therapy groups and healing is not the goal, but inching toward wholeness is in fact a secondary benefit and a welcome one.
* * * *
After two grey weeks in Los Angeles the sun has emerged. I could write about that aspect of this visit alone for pages. I coined the term ironic misery to describe coming to California expecting sun and getting fourteen solid days of cloud cover. Biden is on. Weird that it’s four and not seven. I have him muted. Nothing against him but I can’t compose a sentence with someone else talking in the room.
I get to see C again tomorrow! I plan to broil swordfish and make coleslaw.
As a final note, let me say that I may not be confident about much, but I’m pretty sure my coleslaw with buttermilk dressing would get me invited to the BBQ.