Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing As Practice

That is the dining room. In the vases are crabapple blossoms(my mom always cut these branches and filled the house with them and I want to grow up and be just like her) and tulips. Soon there will be lilacs--my favorite! I can't wait. When the lilacs are in bloom is also when you can go to the woods to look for morel mushrooms! Delicious in butter and pretty in your hat (when you collect them, that is).

On to the real point of this post:

I am a member of a group of women that meet once a month and write together Natalie Goldberg style. We pick words and give ourselves 20 minutes to write and then read out aloud whatever crap we have written. I like that it takes away the preciousness of sitting down to write. The listeners tell what resonated with them. There is no pressure, no need to produce anything, it is like getting together to play tennis with less exercise, more wine and no competition.

At this point, I don't do it to gain skill, although at one point I did it because writing was one of the last things I ever did for myself. I needed the writing time for building confidence. Now I lead the full on writing life. And our writing practice meeting are an opportunity for me to write socially. (The practice room allows that too.) (More later this week on why writing socially works.) And I still love these get-togethers. It is terribly reassuring to have somebody writing next to you and know that we all put our pants on one foot at a time. Writers forget that when they look at finished (read fully dressed) products.

But it is one example of writing practice. Doing the writing for it’s own sake. Just because it is enjoyable. Just because your curious what will end up on the page. There is no means to an end, and I rarely look back to see what I got. I date the page and it remains in the notebook along with old grocery lists, inane notes about taxes and the things my son has to remember to bring to school. Last fall I ditched a bunch of these notebooks. Pages and pages of scribbling. C'est la vie.

Writing practice, just like any other kind of practice does help you get better, but that is not the reason you do it. You do it because it is what you do.

18 comments:

  1. Your monthly group sounds like a lot of fun. You're right - practice is a great way to improve our craft, but that shouldn't be the main reason we do it. :-)

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  2. I like this idea too, because it is so transient. Because you get to the end of something. Can you tell that I'm struggling with getting to the end--that mystical, unattainable place--with my revision?

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  3. So cool, your take on writing... the NG-style group you talked about, unpluggage... I've been part of many writing groups, but we never write. They're crit groups. I love this idea of writing together. Like workout partners at the gym. Hm. I'm thinking... & I'll talk about it tomorrow at weekly crit partner meeting.

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  4. Shannon- Thanks for stopping by!! My group is a lot of fun and so is practicing when I think of it that way. When it's not fun anymore then I don't know what I will do!

    Heather- You're right that things that have endings are really appealing right now! I'm with you on that. You ARE going to finish it. In the meantime, one hour at a time...

    Robert-- I love that, like work out partners at the gym. It is a great metaphor. Let me know how it goes over at your meeting!

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  5. How have I never heard of this group before? Or have you mentioned it, I just wasn't listening? I have been considering joining the writing center we have in my town, but I am SO FREAKED out about it. I do know that it would be good for me though...ugh. I think I should and get over myself. Thanks for your time, T, you always get me to talk things out. Even in one-sided convos.

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  6. JON - JOIN!! Don't hesitate!! I'd give my back teeth to be able to have PHYSICAL ACCESS to such a group....(HA HA right back teeth are a bridge...not real, he he)

    Tina - can't you and Heather come and live in Greece??? Or I can come over 6 months of the year and you come here 6 months?

    OH shit - I'm developing a weird and spooky dependancy thing on you and Heather...OMG! What does your hubby say?

    JON - look on the bright side - you may meet some pleasantly nutty people...yes?

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  7. J- I don't know if I told you or not. Probably I was confusing about it if I did! As always, my pleasure!!

    Ann Marie- My husband thinks your fun. We should all hang out!!! (You and I will go off and write a bit!) And then everybody will talk shop--writing, therapy, what have you!

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  8. It's often about the social interaction more than the point of group meetings, don't you think? At least, that seems to be the biggest benefit to my book club, history group etc.

    And, I think it takes great courage to write on the fly. I never ever can and so am always impressed with those who do.

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  9. ER - OK ...will drinkies be available? ...I suppose hubby REALLY says that as he wants to do a secret case study of a BRIT. TWIT - right? It's OK....am thick skinned...
    C U tonight.......

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  10. Tess- Yes! Although we actually write when we get together. It does take some discipline to get things accomplished, my book club is notoriously poor at accomplishing the business. And thanks for saying it takes courage (most of this crazy writing stuff does I think). And you could do it, with PRACTICE (in fact it would be so lovely to have you there!). But it is for sure scary at first!

    Ann Marie- See you later!

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  11. I'm not a member of a group that meets to write but your post reminded me of an experience I had in a teacher workshop.

    The facilitator was taking us thru some type of writing exercise and then we shared our writing in small groups. The paragraph I wrote eventually inspired the idea for my second novel. I wasn't looking for an idea, I was just doing the exercise. You just never know...

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  12. Being honest, I write well alone. I don't know how I would do in a group. But then again, I've never tried it. As long as it wasn't long hand. Maybe. :)

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  13. Paul-Your story reminded me of this! I also do this with a group of teens, although we haven't met in awhile. That group had a crazy synergy going where each person, scene by scene, expanding their own fiction story. Totally unbidden I seemed to have a novel growing and it was superbly unintentional. I'd pick a word and come up with a new scene. I did type in those to the computer! I wouldn't know the characters name from one sitting to the next but it was all part of the same story. We'll see if I ever do anything with it. But it is totally interesting to me!

    Laura, one of us does bring her computer! It's for fun, so you never have to try if you don't want, but there is a certain energy you get from groups. And it is one of the few times I write long hand. So messy I can't read my own writing. You should hear how haltingly I read aloud.

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  14. That sounds really fun--and the picture you put is really cute, too. Re: writing together, it's kind of genius--because you're accountable, on the spot, but in a safe environment. I'm a big believer that competitiveness breeds good work, and there's something inherently competitive about doing something in a group. Thanks for sharing--another great post.

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  15. OK! I want to come to one of these groups. I'll wait til Boy is in school full time and Husband is feeling guilty about something stupid he did (this happens several times a year) and then I'll go, "Yo, gotta go to writing club in BLANK (I can't remember where you live)." Does that sound fun? And can I sleep on your couch afterward?

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  16. Samuel- Thanks! There is energy in a group, even if it is hard, or especially if it is hard, there is something palpable(it reminds me of the making your own magic of your post). And probably is competitive and desensitizing! And when the folks have something nice to say about what you wrote, so validating.

    Anita- OOOOh yeah! Make your way to Minneapolis! And I will give you wonderful digs(although you can sleep on the couch if you want) and we will egg each other on (writing wise, for sure)!!

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  17. I'm crashing at your place with Anita, too! :)
    My writing group critiques one another sometimes, just sits and writes alongside one another sometimes, and sometimes we do writing prompts or exercises. We do end up giggling a lot with the exercises and produce work we never would have otherwise.

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  18. You are so totally invited, Kelly. Then I can receive my first dance lesson. We are going to be busy! And it is so great that your writing group is so disciplined. I have not known many groups that have been able to overlap critting and writing on the fly--except at school. Teachers are good at making you do the hard things. Way to go, Kelly!

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