Get a Group

There are nine writing groups in my life. Each one unique, but three of them are mostly fun. I write a lot about having fun writing, because I believe that finding pleasure in what we do lets us do more of it. The three that I just referred to involve few rules and lots of writing.

In group one, five women gather every two weeks. First we talk and drink coffee. Whatever topic surfaces is good. Then we write for twenty minutes. This is not craft or critique work, but free flowing, whatever comes to the page. Usually, one or two main ideas surface in the conversation and we go with that soft focus, but if something individual needs attention, that’s fine, too. When time’s up we each read whatever we have, not to get help or correct anything, just to share the writing and react to the content. Because we have been together for several years, the level of trust is high and we can share even delicate information without fear of criticism or embarrassment.

Group two is fairly new, but again we meet every two weeks, in an artist’s studio and do three or four eight-minute free writes. This group grew out of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. The prompts come from the group at the moment we start. We abide by the timer and we keep the pen/pencil moving on the page, no time for editing thoughts or language. Often we have trouble reading our own handwriting, but that’s okay because, again, this is not craft but a chance to let our minds off their leashes and put words on paper as they come to us. In neither of these two groups is there any keyboard or screen. We write the way nature intended us to, with our hands. It’s finger painting with language.

Group three is an ongoing, larger, more organized group that meets at Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop in Denver. It’s called Friday 500, given the goal of each writer getting 500 words down in an hour. Because we do not share this work, the goal stays private. But the quiet attention to our work is a joy. There are beverages and cookies and comfortable chairs and tables. Here laptops and tablets and pens are the tools of choice. After an hour of silent, private work we reassemble in a classroom and join in a discussion or writing exercise where we do share as time and purpose allow.

If you are not involved in a writing group, think about creating or joining one. It takes a few tries to find or build one that fits your style and satisfaction, but it’s cheaper than a movie and more creative than television. (Well, for me almost anything is more creative than TV.) It’s free, it’s freeing, it’s social without the need for fancy clothes or equipment. It’s writing. Just do it.

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