Writing Group Woes

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about writing, having spent the last few posts talking about my experience as an online teacher. I imagine that I could say quite a lot about the tips that I have garnered from other teachers as well as the trouble that I’ve had over the last couple of years. But this blog is also about writing.

I have joined, then lead, and formed writer’s groups in three countries. The Edinburgh Creative Writers Club I joined as a member but ended up leading for about six months. It was an experience. One that I’ve come to treasure. I learned a lot that year in Edinburgh. About myself as a person and definitely about myself as a writer. The Edinburgh Creative Writers Club was a critique group. It was here that I learned how to give feedback, in a way that was fair and constructive. The worst thing you can do to a writer is to give them feedback that is pejorative and cruel. While writers tend to have thick skins, that comes with time and publishing. The stories of papering one’s wall with rejection letter upon rejection letter are true. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. The only thing I’ve ever published besides two blogs is a little poem in an anthology called A Spoonful of Stories, that was published by the Edinburgh Creative Writers Club. It was self-published, but it too was a learning experience.

When I left Edinburgh, I took the Anthology and a bruised heart home. But I also took some valuable skills. I learned that I was strong enough to moderate a group of very different personalities, to make myself heard and understood, and to stand up for myself and others if needed. It was a skill that I would learn to use when I got back to Washington. I was bruised, and nearly broken. Edinburgh was and is my soul city. It calls to me like no other city on earth. I can’t really explain why that is. It just is.

I was angry when I return to Washington. Angry that I could not stay in Edinburgh. I was angry about so many things that winter of 2012. Still, home I came, And with the hindsight of seven years on and everything that came after, today I can be happy that Edinburgh was not to be. To maintain my connection to the city and the people that I had met, but also to solidify my connection to writing, I formed the Washington Creative Writers Club. It is an amazing group of people still. They are going strong, even without me there. After all, I was not indispensable. It wasn’t my group. It was our group.

My life changed once again when I came to Amsterdam in 2017. I had found a group of people who were writers during the 2016 Nanowrimo. That group has evolved to become a Thursday night writing group that is not a critique group, but merely a place with like-minded people come to write and type away at their keyboards or scribble away in their notebooks depending on their Luddite status. I had thought that the Dutch were drama free. But I was wrong. As copacetic as people are here, personalities can still clash.

It seems that one of my writers has some beliefs that shock to many people in the group. I was not able to make that meeting, but I heard all about it both through an email that I was sent and from people who had attended. I was very surprised that my normally cool as cucumber writers had descended into what can only be called a kerfuffle. I am frankly rather taken aback that the group was not kicked out of the shop that we meet in because apparently, things got very loud. This was my first experience with a whole group having any issue at all. Especially one that simply gets together to write. There is no critique so there is no reason for anybody to be upset by anything. And yet, it happened here. I have spent the last couple of weeks wondering whether my attendance would’ve stopped the discussion, or whether I would’ve been able to moderate the discussion to a place where things that shouldn’t have been said weren’t. As it is, one of the members of the group has decided to leave because he does not feel like the group is the place for him. I am quite saddened by this as he was a wonderful writer and expressed himself in a way that was interesting. And while I may not have agreed with everything that he said, the discussions that we had were interesting. I let him know that he would be missed and I do know that the other members of the group that engaged in the discussion have contacted him as well.

People should be free to say whatever the hell they want as long as it is not pejorative and hurtful to others. What was a shame about the incident was that I had to reiterate that. I shouldn’t have had to do that, we should have been adult enough to handle any form of discussion with aplomb and dignity. In particular, I have learned to let things go in one ear and out the other. Maybe it’s a benefit of age, as the people involved were far younger than I. But maybe not, because the person who left the group was older than I and could’ve moderated just as easily.

I hate confrontation, but my not so inner teacher came out that day, as I castigated my friends to allow people to say whatever they want. As I told them, “If I want to say that I am Donald duck and that the moon is made of green cheese”, I should be able to say that, and whether you agree with me or not,  or think I’m an idiot or not, those thoughts need to be kept to oneself.

I am not sure when the pall that was cast by this incident, will stop affecting me. I hope it’s soon, and I hope that by blogging the experience I can move on quicker than otherwise. For those of you that read this blog, I wanted to thank you for listening and also for the likes that you’ve shown over the last few weeks.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned, as always, there is more to come.

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