Taking the plunge

It was the first week of January, that time of new beginnings and fresh starts, when each year I look at the blank pages of a crisp new planner and think of all that I could fill it with: travels to far away places, appointments to beautify the winter-drab, trips to the gym to sculpt and tone. Except that I knew none of that would really fill my days.

Laura Ritchie@Flickr.com
Laura Ritchie@Flickr.com

So instead, I decided to slough off a few habits that no longer served me. Get out of the same-old same-old rut. Stretch myself a bit. An online class by Brene Brown. More time in meditation. Line dancing (I know, right?!) And sign up for a writing workshop. Mind you, it sounded great on the website. Sit around the table. Listen to others’ writing. Practice the craft. Share what I’ve written. (Actually, the first three sound just dandy, but the last, not so much.)

It would be intimidating, I knew, for the me who would rather snuggle on the sofa with a book, browse this week’s New Yorker, watch some YouTube videos, nest at home on these cold February evenings. But I felt the fear and did it anyway. (Thanks, Susan Jeffers!)

Now I’d done this once before, and thought I knew the drill: write a new piece each week or so, bring enough copies for the entire workshop, listen to the critique–it’s excruciating, intimidating, sometimes beneficial, but definitely not for the faint of heart.

This workshop follows the Amherst Writers and Artists Method, which was a different approach altogether. The AWA is an affirming and non-threatening practice in which anyone who writes is a writer and where it’s a given that everyone is born to create. All writing is treated as fiction, even though we’re invited to write “from memory or imagination.” Workshop writers offer only positive comments: what resonates with you? what will you remember? We write in 10, 15, 20 minutes chunks, always after given some prompt: “it was the first time; blue; what matters … ”

It helps, too, that the studio space and the workshop facilitator are a delight. Stuffed easy chairs, ottomans, sofas. Lamplight and bookshelves. Not a conference table or florescent light bulb in sight. And our workshop leader, Emily? She is a sweet young woman, willow-like and graceful, with what I suspect is a wise, old soul. She is gentle and encouraging. But above all, she’s a confident and skillful writer who knows her stuff.

If you want to grow as a writer, or even if you’ve only ever considered writing, this workshop just might bring you the same satisfaction it has brought me.

(Psssst … I’ve already signed up for April.)

 

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