During this most recent spell of writer’s block, I’ve been thinking back to when writing came easier and how helpful it was to belong to a solid writers’ group.
In the mid-1980s a core group of us became friends at a formal creative writing class, and we decided to meet on our own after the eight-week session ended.
We came from many backgrounds and careers — a day care worker; a plumber who became a librarian; a college marketing/PR professional; a consultant of some sort; an adjunct writing instructor; a bus driver; a homemaker, and others I’m no doubt forgetting.
Everyone could write well. More important, everyone gave constructive criticism, often tinged with humor. We laughed, wrote and learned a helluva lot about writing and living.
We got to know each other as writers. So well, in fact, that one of our self-imposed assignments was picking another member’s name out of a hat and coming back the next week with a few pages written in that member’s style. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing. (Thank you, Jeff.)
Of course, with a collection of writers, you’re going to get some unusual folks. Our bus driver member was a wonderful man with an even better Boston accent. George never wrote a thing as I recall, but he loved to tell tales about his bus passengers and other characters he’d met. He was a good reader, and he loved the social aspect of the group.
George once responded this way to a rather dark poem read aloud by another member: “You know, Alice, there’s a lot of manic depressives on my bus who would love that poem.”
He meant it in a good way, and even the writer had to laugh.
It was a different time in all of our lives — before children in my case, before grandchildren and retirement for others. We were busy, and we wrote when we could. One of our members, with young kids at home, told of driving to an all-night grocery store in the middle of the night to write under the glare of a light in the parking lot.
Now we have (impersonal) personal computers, social media and, of course, the blogosphere. As good and as helpful as those things are, they’re no substitute for a solid group that gets together regularly.
A few of us tried to revive the sessions about eight years ago — could it be that long ago really, Joyce and Charlie? — but our good intentions didn’t last very long.
I think that’s OK, though. The group, in its prime, more than served its purpose. It made us all better writers, better readers and, I like to think, better people.