Know When to Hold ‘Em



Like Jupiter and Venus brightly aligned, my two face-to-face writing groups met yesterday, one in the morning and one in the evening. They are the yin and yang of my writing life. The morning group consists of five women who have been writing together every two weeks for several years. First we talk, just following the day’s interests as they pop up. We drink coffee or tea, munch on fruit or cookies. Then we sit down and write for about 20 minutes on a topic that has surfaced. For example, what caught our attention yesterday was “what pleases me.” We share and respond to our efforts and confirm the date for the next session. It’s that simple.

The question that arises for me is what to do with my writing from this group. At first we thought about a blog which would publish our thoughts, but we let that go. For one thing, we often open up old wounds and don’t need or want to publicize that pain. We trust each other with our histories, but not the whole world. I tuck these pages into a blue folder and leave it be. These writing sessions, I’m beginning to think, are like journal entries, not meant to be more than they are. But what they are is strong glue that sticks our friendship together. More process than product. Nothing needs doing. I’m free to hold them or fold them.

The group that met in the evening is a poetry critique group, the number varying from three to seven if everyone can make it. Again, this group is cohesive. We have met weekly for a long time and know each other well, can talk about the work without hurt feelings or defensive blocking. The process is very important in helping us to hone poems and make them as truthful and powerful as possible. I rarely fold-and-stash my work with this group. It’s meant to be shared, published in some way, an end product that I hope finds a use in the world.

For years I have treasured a quote from E. M. Forster: “Only connect! . . . Live in fragments no longer.” Each of these two groups connects me to others whom I value. But then, that’s what writing is supposed to do.

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