September 24, 2019
For our first meeting today, we fell into a good rhythm of support and gentle nudging to improve.
But, man, these women know how to cut right down to the bone. Both pieces that we read were about death and grieving, and the before and after. What courage it took to take part as the first readers of their work for the group and to also go straight for what matters.
Likewise, those of us who listened and gave feedback were not holding back. We gave advice that spoke to what could help the writing become what it wanted to be, which was our goal today. I hope that the writers felt it as such.
We opened with a warm-up to build trust and share where we are as writers, whatever that means for us today. I asked for everyone to fill in the blanks, “For me writing is __________, but it is also __________.” Here is what we came up with:
Writing is a wellspring… and a pain in the ass.
Writing is transporting as well as transformative.
Writing is challenging… and insightful.
Writing provides relief… yet is a box.
Writing is challenging… and revelatory.
Writing is daunting… and pleasurable.
Writing is challenging… rewarding.
Writing is fun… and enlightening.
Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott, especially the Introduction and the chapter called “Shitty First Drafts.” (Both can be read in ebook format at Google books.)
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, where the author tackles one the most difficult of subjects for any writer, the death of a loved one and the year of healing and grief that follows. Read the first few pages on Amazon. Didion is a master of detail, and one of the best writers we can learn from about how to set a scene in a time and a place, but also how to capture the emotional and intellectual energy it holds.
I also was reminded today of “First Death in Nova Scotia” by Elizabeth Bishop, where the poet captures that first childhood moment of understanding mortality. It’s one of the great great poems, in my book.
Thank you, my Women Writing friends, for starting us out by taking risks and setting us off in the right direction, and giving us the courage to go straight to what matters.
Short in the Poop: The title of this post comes from Eileen’s mother, who referred to anyone needing a cushion to sit on a hard wooden chair as “short in the poop.” An apt metaphor for what we did today, sitting down hard and feeling the writing for what it can do.
Oh, yeah, and no schlepping allowed for this writing group. We are clear on that.