I took a writing workshop this weekend through the local community college. I didn’t know what to expect, having never been in a writing group. I knew it would be writing prompts, which I hoped would jump start my writing, which has recently stalled. It was prompts, but it was…different than I expected. There was both good and bad.
I arrived Saturday to a class of ten, unsure what to expect, what to think. It was clear that several people were in another writing class together with the instructor and, as it normally is, it’s a bit intimidating going into a group of people who have a pre-existing relationship. We did a quick writing prompt, a 4 minute exercise based on the word “listen.” I was happy enough with my work, it was the very briefest beginning of an idea that has been in my head, and then I learned we would be sharing our work out loud.
The first person read, a man with a deep voice which would make even the menu at Wendy’s sound amazing. The second person read, and I was absolutely floored by her talent. The third person read, and while the narrative wasn’t particularly interesting, the descriptive style was impressive.
Then it was my turn.
I realized what I wrote was crap, but what could I do? I read. And then there were five more after me.
Was I the worst in the group? No.
Was I the best? Far from it.
We did nine writing prompts yesterday, and I can’t say that my writing got any better. I often wondered why writing circles are necessary – I can do writing prompts by myself, I can read to…someone. But no, I can’t. I am fiercly protective of my work, and it’s hard for me to share. So yes, the group made me share.
I was blown away by some of the others in the group. I was humbled. I realized that while I knew my writing was not the best, in reality my writing was crap compared to some of these people. Out of 10, I was not in the top three. And it was disheartening. When lunch rolled around, I wondered f I would be able to force myself to go back afterwards.
Saturday evening, I wondered if I would be able to force myself to go back Sunday.
And I’m glad I did. Because Sunday was better. I felt more comfortable, I felt like I wrote better.
And the whole experience made me realize that while, yes, I can do writing prompts on my own, and I can read to others, that alone will not expose me to the reality that that I am not nearly as good as I wish was, that I need something more to push me to do better.
So, yes, I need to be part of a writing group. I need to hear others who are much better than me in order to strive to be better. I need the creativity that flows through these groups to feed me. I need to let go of that inner shyness, that tentativeness that doesn’t allow anyone to hear or see what I’ve written, because of the fear that it sucks.
Because, yes, while some of it sucks, some of it is good. I know it. And the group is supportive enough to tell me so.