Friday, January 6, 2012
Four years ago this month, in a darkened hall of a religious center in Encino, I nervously tiptoed into a gathering of writers who met once a week to write together for a few hours. It was not a workshop; there were no expectations or obligations, you didn't have to lug home someone else's shit to read and make notes on, you didn't need to critique anything, and you didn't have to sit through other people's "constructive" feedback (which, in some workshops, has proven to simply halt my work, progress and general spirit).
Instead, this was a gathering of people who were busy and just wanted a safe place to write freely and try ideas and sometimes find a new thread for a character or plot, and sometimes just make a list of whatever showed up in their heads that night. And then go home.
It seemed too easy to work, really. We all brought writing prompts to share and then, after one was presented to the group, we'd all scratch out ideas for 10 - 15 minutes, then go around in a circle and read our stuff, then move on to the next prompt. Two or three cycles later, we'd end with a 5-minute list-making exercise, read it, then chat a bit and go home. And it went on like this, for nearly 2 years, until we all got busier and less able to commit to a weekly gathering, though every single one of us found ourselves waxing poetic about those cold winter evenings in the belly of the Ba'hai center, thoroughly engrossed in our writing, codependent for each other's progress on the page.
On Tuesday I received an urgent email: WRITE WITH US THIS THURSDAY! I had a billion excuses: too far, too late, school night, blah, meh... But a tingle of excitement shuddered over me as I typed back: Okay, I'm in. And then the reality of the evening settled in last night, the beautiful relief of gathering together around a table, sharing our words, laughing, letting time slip away... It was like magic, like no time had passed.
As on that very first night four years ago, I had to suppress a deep down feeling of awe at the writers gathered around me. When I hear the words that they've written -- for the very same prompt, in the same paltry amount of time as me -- I fear that I am an impostor, a hanger-on, that there's no way I should be sitting in the same room as these thinkers. You call yourself a writer? the inner voice pesters as, one after the other, these writers immerse me in the fully realized worlds that they've created right there, sitting next to me.
And yet... I'm grateful for the gathering, for the opportunity to sit surrounded by greatness, to muster my own courage and use my own voice and to be heard and received, to hear about the lonely struggles of other observers and add to the overheard conversations of daily life.