Monday, August 19, 2013

Group Writing, Telling Life's Stories

By Laurie Epps

Today's the first day of school for many of us, and how fitting that we're winding down with our book. Next week will mark the last week of this series of my column. It still isn't too late to buy your copy of Writing Down the Bones, and scroll back to older additions of my Monday Morning Book Club to follow along. Don't fret, we will be picking up a whole new book by my friend and mentor, Edie Melson. It's on a topic that is difficult for a lot of us as writers, Social Media.

But for today, we're going to talk about writing in mass. By that, I mean to say this is Power Writing, or Writing on Steroids. The process is the same, but we write for longer periods of time, and often in the company of other writers. Call up your friends, and let's get to writing!

A Story Circle
pp. 156-159

Goldberg used to occasionally invite friends to come over. She would light a candle, and her guests would make a circle with her around it. Each person agrees to commit to it for the entire duration of the party. She has her friends write, but I also thing this would work orally. Each person writes a story, or shares a story within a set topic.

As a culture, we all remember stories. We've all experienced things unique to ourselves as individuals. In fact, most legends and knowledge was shared in this oral tradition. After bringing your friends together, reflect on it. As your memories of their stories emerge in your mind, relax and let your own stories pour out of you.

Writing Marathons
pp. 160-163

Writing Marathons is much what it sounds like, but it's a group activity. You might invite some friends over, and agree to write for four hours. Everyone must agree to write for the full-time. Again, you draw the topics from a box. The topics are guidelines only. You begin and just write for the agreed time. It can be scary as you begin to open up. You may feel vulnerable, or a gauntlet of other feelings. For this, Goldberg recommends to spend a half an after writing on your own, but I don't think it's meant as a requirement. I, too, often have writing marathons by myself. For me, I like to spend some time afterwards in silent reflection.

How do you handle writing marathons? I realize that this feels a bit different for both, but I'd love to hear how you handle it in both situations. Please share your go-to devices to help you handle the mental and physical demands of it in the comments section below.

Claim Your Writing
pp. 164-166

After going to the writers conference, I can tell you Goldberg's words are true. Writers, by in large, are an insecure lot. We can't tell if our work is good or bad. All of us struggle with this on some level. We make unreasonable parallels. 

Examples: "I just got dumped, my work is bad, and I am bad," or "I'm a good person, but I just suck at this writing thing."

Often this isn't the case, often our work is good. Each of us have qualities that are unique, and we shine those qualities into our writing, or writing also becomes unique. We all have our own distinct voice.

I'll never forget my first real day in Advanced Comp class, I barely sat down before the class began and talking my classmates ear off. It was the first time we had all submitted essays, and they were going to be put on the monitor. I was all nerves. Inside I thought, "Don't pick mine, oh please don't pick mine," yet deep down I knew this professor would dig my essay. 

So up on the monitor my essay went, glaring at me, sticking out its preverbal tongue at me. Silently to myself I said, "great, if I don't stand out enough by being the old lady in class...." In that moment, my worst fear was realized. My sentimental piece about my youth, and my days in Paris were before the entire class.... my essay Par Avion. With the slide of the mouse in front of me, I had to scroll and read my essay aloud. I felt my heart palpitating in my throat. Suddenly, my mouth was dry. Inside I though, "I'm a fraud, and they're all gonna know I'm a fraud." The panic that set in was grueling. Still to date, "Par Avion" is one of my favorite essays. It was published in "Straitjackets Literary Magazine" this past spring. I survived it, and you will too.

Trust Yourself
pp. 167-168

Goldberg took a journal entry to class to see what her students thought of it. She asked them to find the poem. It's true, that if you hand your writing to a hundred people, you're likely to get a hundred different interpretations of it.

The real treasure is learning to shelf your work. Put it away for 1-6 months. Look at it again. Perhaps it's not as bad as all of that, or maybe it is. Fresh eyes will catch your mistakes much faster. Trust your instincts here, I promise, you will know.

Laurie Epps is a senior at Anderson University majoring in Creative Writing. Already Laurie is most published as a feature article writer, essayist, and poet. A seeker of beauty and world traveler, Laurie hopes to grow into a career in travel writing illuminating the many stories that make us human despite our differences. Currently, Laurie also has a Thoughtful Thursday column dedicated to the fine art of poetry and a column called Fiction to Film that is an accompaniment to English 365 at Anderson University.

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