May is motherhood memoir month

Writing as a Team

The Power of Writing with Others

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is poetry-art-2-e1557022642426.jpg
collage by L.Lyn Greenstone

Not so long ago, we used to meet at the local library, six writers and myself.

I introduced a prompt and we got right to work, a short session of only five minutes, plus a minute to wrap it up. Each writer had the option to read or pass. The first reading was read aloud- optional- but no feedback given. The reading acts as an introduction; this is who we are as writers- this is what we write. Beyond this, it was an opportunity for the writer to hear how the words she’s put together fell upon the ear and heart.

Years ago when I was at UCSD, Eudora Welty came into our Honors Writing class to chat with 10 of us for an hour. “My own words, when I’m at work on a story reach me through the reader-voice, the same voice that I hear when I read books. When I write the sound of it comes back to my ears…I have always trusted this voice.” We are learning to hear and trust our own voices.

Writing, and then hearing our own voice, is powerful. Voices that come down through the ages, influencing us, eventually become part of our unique mix.

Talking about writing is not writing. It doesn’t help much to talk about it, in my experience. It helps most when we write and then talk about what we wrote. We talked some about writing, mostly about trusting our own voices, but mostly we wrote. And then we wrote some more.

During this session, one writer was choked by her own words, could hardly get them out of her mouth, but she did. Another spit out her words, slightly enraged, overtly expressive. An element of surprise found itself in each piece, from each author.

After the third month, we all went away amazed at how productive a short stint of writing time could be, even with minimal feedback.

There is tremendous power in simply writing with others. Sitting down and putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. Forcing ourselves to lay words on the page, discover what’s inside. To simply write together from a prompt. And then to offer our words back to each other.

Are you part of a writing group, even if it’s just you and one other writer? It helps to share the journey, not just talk about it. During this time of sequester many groups are now online. Have you found one? And don’t overlook those right around you.

I have the good fortune of being married to a writer. We go on walks and talk about how our writing is progressing. He looks over posts before I put them out there, and I share little things I’ve learned about overcoming resistance and using “what if?” to get a story unstuck.

But I’m also in groups with accountability partners that help me remember that we’re all in this together, and while it sometimes feels lonely to write by myself, I’m not alone. Others are out there working at writing and we all need encouragement to keep going.

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