I attended a writing conference this past October and happened to have the good fortune of sitting next to a woman who belongs to a writing group in Amherst, MA. I expressed an interest in learning more about this group and she invited me to a meeting which I am sitting at as I write this.
The group is a different format than the writing group I attend in Connecticut. In this Amherst group, we initially have a five minute writing session where we write whatever we want. This is followed by a brief reading and commenting of our work. Then there are two more thirty minute writing periods that morning, also followed by reading and commenting. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience today and the following essay is what came out of my writing this morning. It was interesting for me to see that despite the fact that I didn't have a topic in mind to write about when the group started, the ideas and words just flowed...
I sit in a room with four strangers. I feel excitement and some apprehension, although not as much as I anticipated. I used to not able to do things like this, enter a room of people I don’t know and make myself at home. I guess that is what happens sometimes as you get older; you become more comfortable in your own skin. You put yourself out there for the world to see and remind yourself that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. For me today, it’s all about the writing.
Finding my voice.
Finding my muse.
When it comes down to it that is what writing is all about for me, that finding of my voice, my muse, and ultimately myself. I want other people to read what I have written. I want my writing to give them pleasure and inspiration. However at the end of the day, the most important thing to me is that I have been true to my craft and to myself.
I sometimes become lost in my journey of writing and I have to remind myself that it is a process. A process of learning and developing more proficient writing skills. More importantly, a process of listening for the words and stories that are just begging to be written down. I don’t know if this is what it is like for other writers but I have found that when there is a story in my mind and heart to be told, whether it is a personal essay or a short story, it oftentimes unfolds in a very predictable manner.
The idea of what I want to write enters my brain sometimes insidiously and other times like a lightning bolt. I toss it around in my head for a few minutes or maybe even a few hours to see if the idea develops at all. If it does, it is at that moment that it has to be documented somewhere before it gets consumed by all the other important and non-important pieces of information floating around in my brain. It doesn’t matter where it gets written down, maybe on my laptop, a notepad, a post it, or the worn out grocery receipt sitting at the bottom of my purse. The important part is that it gets written down.
As I write my essay, my story, or my poem, I feel physically different. It feels like adrenaline is rushing through my body. It’s like I have the ideas all bottled up in my mind and my brain is scrambling to put the right words and sentences together so that coherent thoughts form onto the page. As the paragraphs form, I become more confident in what I am developing. Once I finish the first draft, a rush of release fills my body. I did it. I got all the words down on the page that I needed to. My voice is now permanent.
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