A Writer’s Group Changed My Life

In the last post I mentioned a poem and Ted Talk by Phil Kaye which spoke about building what you know how to build. Wove into the same talk, he spoke about the process of writing as well as the first time he ever taught a workshop of poetry in the prison system. This post is not so much about that, but something Kaye said that sparked thoughts about my current situation.

“It’s my first experience being in a community of writers, knowing what it’s like to have a group of people that want to make you better. I learned what it feels like to tear some soft part of yourself, give it to a group of people to gently mold it, hand it back to you better than they found it.” Phil Kaye

This quote touched me. Just over a year ago, on a cold November night, I decided to sit in on the local writer’s group. They were a loud bunch, people talking with their hands, talking over each other, and there was laughter. So much laughter. It really puzzled me as I had never seen writers this vivacious. That first meeting I realized they were a family. I was an outsider. They did their best to make me feel welcome, but internally I made up a ton of excuses as to why I didn’t belong. The next week, I didn’t return.

December rolled around that year and I decided to try again. It was around Christmas and as much as I told myself I wasn’t lonely at the holidays, I was. I started to bring poetry to this group and eventually, with much encouragement, I dug out the novel I’d started ten years before. I began to feel differently about writing.

In the past, I had been in groups where the temperament was stiff and serious and the members were ultimately looking for ego stroking rather than good criticism. The Corning Writer’s Group is something special. They opened up their arms to me and let me tear those pieces from myself for them to mold. I trust them. This group is encouraging on one hand, but they cut to the heart of what needs changing. Each member has a particular talent for catching mistakes in writing and together, we teach each other what it means to be good writers.

What started out as sharing work and maybe making some changes has turned into beautiful friendships. They are my family. Their opinions mean the most to me. They never let me get away with shit. And I love them for it. It was a group I never imagined fitting in with, but now, I can’t imagine life without them.

I encourage you to seek out a local writer’s group in your area. Try the library first. They are an amazing resource. Be open to growing your craft because it can always get better. I’ve learned you have to take risks in your first draft…just keep writing as it flows from you and the second draft you can be critical. The most important thing is putting words on the page. Find a community. You will see the difference in everything you do.

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