Awesome writing circle

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.

me and mom
Here’s me and my mom at the summer conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild.

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…
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Letting Go of Lists

On my happiness list, the last item is “Embrace uncertainty.” And the second to the last? “Live every day as if it were your last.” These are hard to follow because I love making lists and planning my day.

There was one day, three or four years ago, when the darlings, Josie and I were in Italy for Thanksgiving and we had absolutely no plans. We followed the Improv rule, “Accept every offer.” If someone suggested we stop somewhere, that’s where we went. We chased a ball in a church courtyard for a long time.

We got lost in Venice. Someone said, “Let’s stop at that pizza place.” We did. We ate pizza under a bridge.

Then someone pointed to a boat and said, “Oh those clementines look good.” So we bought clementine oranges off of a boat. The kids tried to peel the clementines in one peel so you could hold them back together again and they’d look whole. They were the best clementines ever.

Then the kids wanted to spend hours feeding the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. But I took a break with a cappuccino at a café off the square. When the waiter delivered my coffee in the white china cup, there, in the frothy milk, was a heart.

When I let go of my agenda, things surprised and pleased me — things I didn’t even think were possible.

I had that list of Summer To Do things. And some of the things I’ve done and some I haven’t. And I’m not sure I’ll get to them today. After all, my last item is “Quit making lists.”

  1. Update my resume
  2. Get more help for Chris and household management
  3. Research joining a writer’s room or applying for writer-in-residence program
  4. Befriend new families in kids’ new Fall schools/classes
  5. Prepare kids well for camp
  6. Have a party while kids are at camp
  7. Replace or do something about annoying kitchen cabinets
  8. Eat more fish
  9. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  10. Comment on and read other blogs
  11. Tweet every day
  12. Do a reading of my work at least once a month
  13. Plan an international trip for me and the kids
  14. Get my bike tuned up
  15. Quit making lists
What’s on your Summer To Do list?