So earlier this year I was asked if I wanted to join The Other Writing Group, the only prerequisite being that I have a writing practice and was interested in developing it. As I had recently returned to full time employment and was therefore unable to attend my ‘original’ writer’s group, I jumped at the chance.
I did glance slightly at the premise for the Other Writing Group being a state of ‘weightlessness’ and envisaged us suspended from the air whilst trying to write, but mostly I was just excited at the opportunity to be a part of a group that loved writing at a time in my life when I had very little time for writing.
The practice had a set structure, which for a person like me, provided a level of comfort and peace that allowed me to explore new avenues for creativity. It was freedom within boundaries. I entered the workshops with a pre-conceived concrete notion of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to prod and poke at two short stories that had been fermenting in my head for a few months and to see if I could get others to interact with my story and add fuel to my creative fire.
I always find movement, calming and settling, especially when entering a new environment. For this reason I found the touch and warm up at the beginning of the session to be an important stage for me. It allowed me to fill my head with ‘where am I walking, how am I walking, who is walking by me, who is reaching out to me?’ As all these thoughts filled my head, other thoughts of the outside world left. We became aware of each other and after the first session, it was the people I thought of, not the space. For this reason I have come to the conclusion that as long as the space is comfortable and private, it is not as important as the people in it.
I have participated in impromptu theater, but never impromptu writing. At first I found it very intimidating with the usual self doubts running through my head, ‘I’m not a poet, I can’t add to the poem. I’m not that creative, I can’t create anything. And, I’m not that clever, I can’t write better than that.’ I forced myself to put aside these fears and participate in the process. I chose a piece that I was excited about and let my childlike wonder take over. I also summoned the courage to create a few triggers myself, hoping others would participate. Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. When they did participate it was often in ways that I did not expect.
As Vahri has recognised, I love a good narrative. One of the most exciting times for me in the workshop was when someone would add to my narrative, furthering the story-line or adding new characters.
I can’t quantify the physical comfort of relaxing in a bean bag or lying on the floor other than to say it was better than being uncomfortable. I did once or twice have a micro sleep allowing me to be alert and aware as I wrote and interacted with others. I also didn’t feel the pressure to ‘sit up straight’ or sit where I was told.
The negative emotions I felt were often emotions that I brought in from outside the group. In each workshop I attended I found that this negativity dissipated by the end of the class aided by the walk, the touch, and the relaxing in a gravity reduced state.
One of the things I struggled with in TOWG was the focus on process vs product. I really crave a product in most things in my life. After participating in the group I am now more comfortable exercising my creative muscles and not worrying so much about what has been created either in the group or outside.
So how did the workshop assist my writing practice outside of TOWG? I now do a little ‘warm up’ before sitting down to write, just for a minute. Touch my toes 10 times, squat and stretch my arms. This puts me in the mindset to exercise my writing practice similar to how you would warm up before a physical workout. When I do this, I seem much more focused.
I also attempt to write for shorter periods of time and have had better results with my writing. Long stints at the keyboard or in the notebook tend to demoralise me.This new approach has been a direct result of TOWG which encourages walking around and interacting with other works.
Sometimes reflecting allows us to actualise what we have learned, and through this reflection I realise that I have learned the importance of making practice a regular ‘thing’, warming up before practicing, being playful, and ‘keeping things’ light. These combined learnings have aided the progression of my writing practice.
Hopefully one day soon I will finish one of those short stories!