Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Happens When You Write Some Blues?

Today I was feeling down and discouraged. At lunch, I opened my copy of Life Is A Verb by Patti Digh to see if I could find some wisdom. I found the entry “Write Some Blues.”

In it she challenges us to do ‘reverse design.” Instead of trying to create the best, create the worst. Take whatever issue is discouraging you or bothering you and flip it around. Write a treatise on ‘How To Stay Discouraged,” or “How to Stay Fat,” etc.

Patti says that while you’re writing your “how to” you may discover some things that you are doing to sabotage yourself or you may think of some way to change things. So I did it.

Here it is:

How To Feel Down and Out

• Dwell on the worst, scariest thoughts possible
• Obsess and stay paralyzed with indecision
• Avoid action at all cost
• Keep thinking “It will never get better!”
• Play “Woe is me” over and over
• Stay in your head 
• Play helpless
• Demand that reality be different than what it is without doing anything to change it
• Play make believe
• Ignore what is right or good in your life
• Think that you have it worse than anyone else in the world

As I got to the end of the list, I realized that I know how to make myself miserable. I’m an expert! So why not flip it around and stop doing those things?

By the time I got done writing, I felt lighter. I actually felt like smiling. So why not try writing yourself some blues? It works! Thanks, Patti!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Writer's Groups

Becca’s Write on Wednesday prompt is about writing groups and whether we’ve ever had/belonged to one.   

How about you? Have you ever belonged to a writer’s group? Did it work? Why (or why not?) What would be your criteria for the perfect writer’s group?

I have belonged to a writer’s group off and on for over 20 years. So I must like them and think they’re beneficial!

In the 80’s, when I was just beginning to write poetry and short stories, I had no clue about what to do. I had one or two friends who wrote. One encouraged me to write, go to the university, carry a notebook everywhere, and talk to other writers. The other coaxed me to go to a one day workshop put on by Midwest Writers’ Workshop on a Saturday. We went together to give each other confidence in the presence of “real writers.”  

At the end of the workshop, a group of the writers sat around talking. About writing, of course. Then they said, “Hey let’s all go over to the Big Wheel, get some coffee and talk some more—and why don’t you come with us?” We did. They told us about their Writer’s Group that met informally once a month at member’s houses and invited us to come. We did. Even though the group eventually quit meeting regularly, most of us still stay in touch. One of the women that I met then, Sherita, is still my best friend and cohort—my writing buddy extraordinaire!

Today, Sherita and I lead a Just Journaling writing group that meets twice a month and a Creative Writing group that meets once a month. We have a core group that usually shows up and a changing group of writers that attend and then move on. The groups are informal and supportive and fun and I couldn’t live without them.

In journaling, we use Natalie Goldberg’s model and we write timed entries then read what we’ve written. Through this sharing, we’ve grown closer, and our writing has improved. This group is a place to just write, to experiment, to practice, to play with words. We talk, we write, we laugh, we share.

In the Creative Writing group, we have more—well, a little more—structure. We bring things that we’re working on and read them aloud to get feedback. Sometimes we just need general feedback, as in whether or not this is working, what can I do to make it better, how does this sound? Sometimes we want close attention to a particular matter. Sometimes we need advice on sending things out. Several of us belong to both groups, so we have the carryover of intimacy with each other’s writing, style, concerns, etc. and this helps. We have a variety of interests. When one of our members gets published or wins an award, we’re all happy!

So, yes, I say writer’s groups can be very beneficial. These groups have kept me in touch with the writing life even when I was going through a very long dry spell and thought I might never write again. They give me hope. They point me to new authors. They encourage me to take chances. And they write, and I write. They fill my well.  

PS--For another view of our group from one of our members, check out what River has to say.  I love what she wrote!