Magic happens when people write together and then read what they’ve written. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. Take the raw materials from your life, weave a story, and experience the alchemy.
In last night’s MeetUp group at Rutgers Church, seven of us gathered and each had about ten minutes to read what we’d written. Then we briefly talked about the craft of writing. We went around the circle and read. We laughed and we cried. Just hearing our work out loud changes what we’ve written.
Sometimes a group can gather, as I’ve done too at a Wednesday writing group at the Interchurch Center. We each start with a blank paper and pen. And creative prompts are shared — inspired from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, or Dan Wakefield’s The Story of Your Life. This last book is the one I used at the International Women’s Writing Guild this summer.
The creative prompts we wrote from then were:
I felt safe when…
My mentor or hero was…
My first job was…
I was really angry with…
Because this is the season of Thanksgiving, it’s always awesome to write about:
When I felt grateful, I…
I have blogged with a few of the essays that I wrote from the Wednesday writing group.
I also want to continue to make this kind of writing circle happen for more people. So check out what’s up and coming at Writer’s Boot Camp MeetUp. But most importantly, keep writing.
I just got off the phone with my biz coach Mandy (Gresh). And dang, she was giving me some tough love. When I started to complain about how I really need to make some money teaching at Boot Camp for Writers or offering corporate writing services at Coudal Creative Communications, she suggested I’ve basically got to get a little more ambitious, go pro, quit offering discounts and stuff for free, and really do what I say I’m going to do.
Underlying Mandy’s meanness (she called her attitude mean, not me) is this: I am way too nice. I am hardly making any money in this writing or teaching biz.
And it’s been almost nine months since I left my full time job as staff writer. It’s about time I give birth to a moneymaker.
I got mad at Mandy. I told her, “Look I have had some huge successes lately. Huge. Out of the ballpark home runs. Like on Sunday, I performed with 14 other writers at the Listen To Your Mother show to a crowd of like 500 at Symphony Space for a Mother’s Day show.
“I not only rocked the house with my writing, but I’m still getting emails about how natural and funny my performance was.” I know I sounded defensive.
I listed all these other accomplishments I’ve had within the last few months:
Last month I presented at a conference to well over a hundred interfaith communicators at the annual meeting of the RCC (Religion Communicators Council) in Indianapolis
So, yes, I’ve been busy. And it’s true. I give myself and my biz away. “I may not be making much money. But I’m making writers,” I told Mandy. And yes, that did sound pathetic.
It’s also true that Mandy called me out on my weekly goal to pitch more of my writing to magazines and paying venues. I want to do it, but I don’t.
Dang, there’s only one thing that would be more uncomfortable than listening to myself explain to Mandy how I could be working so hard and still not making any money. And that would be giving up this writing, coaching, and teaching business that I love and making money at something I don’t love.
I just got great news. I’m going to be teaching at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference at Drew University. I’m going to lead a workshop on Dangerous Writing: Your Spiritual Autobiography from August 8 to 12. Yup, we’re taking our writing to the edge.
When I was 28, I wanted desperately to attend the guild summer conference, then held at Skidmore College, but my ex and I were flat broke. We were living in Inwood. He was unemployed. I was a temp. I was literally so sad that I couldn’t afford a week of writing that I lay in an empty bath tub, fully dressed and cried.
The next year I still couldn’t rub two nickels together, but by then, I was separated from my ex and willing to take risks to pursue my passion for writing.
I threw myself at the mercy of Hannelore Hahn, the founder of the guild, asking her for a scholarship and promising her that someday, as a scholarship recipient myself, I would give a scholarship to a deserving young woman writer like myself.
She agreed. For partial tuition, I happily worked the registration table.
That was, a-hem, more than 20 years ago. Off and on over the years, I’ve been able to attend the summer conference. I’m not quite yet able to give a scholarship, but I am able to give a heckuva workshop. Check back with me in 20 years.
Life’s funny, right?
Attending the guild summer workshop as an instructor is worth the wait. I’m just happy this year to be a part of it and not crying alone in the tub. (I hope!)