The Writers’ Group

It’s early January and, although I didn’t plan this as a New Year’s Resolution, I finally got around to going along to the local writers’ group. I’d had a couple of responses to my initial email requesting further information and I had been assured that it was a ‘small, friendly group’. Still, I was a little apprehensive about what I would encounter and one of my worries was confirmed when I pushed through the door to see several ladies of advancing years sat around a table and looking up at me.

“You must be Nick,” said one. Bugger.

“Yes, hi, erm…”

And before I knew it I had a chair pulled up for me (somewhat self-consciously at the ‘head’ of the table – or foot I suppose; either way, I stuck out like the Batmobile amongst a car park of classic British saloons).

There was a flurry of introductions and then we got down to business. This meeting was a workshop, headed by Barbara (one of the members), where we would use some poetry to fire the creative process. I rather naively thought that this would involve somebody talking through some poems and their structure and symbolism and stuff, and then we’d discuss it and think about how we could make use of it. A bit like many dull workshops and seminars I’ve been to for work over the years.

But no. Printouts of a poem were handed around and it was read aloud. There was then a quick discussion about the content, possible questions that were being asked in the readers’ minds and then there came the words “Does everyone have some writing paper?”

I didn’t even have a bloody pen (despite my daughters asking if I had one before I left the house). I felt like the useless 12 year old lad of the class.

Anyway, paper was found and a pen provided. It still didn’t prepare me for the next bit.ย “I thought,” said Barbara, “that we could use the poem as an inspiration to write something, possibly from either the visitor’s point of view or from those listening inside. Let’s say twenty minutes?”

Holy shit. I’m expected to write something creative, beginning to end, right now. Using PEN and PAPER??!!? And I only have twenty minutes?

I glanced around and most of the others were already charging along. I picked up the pen and twiddled it about a bit, getting the feel of it and wondering whether I could wimp out with the excuse that doing our Christmas cards had used up all of my handwriting.

But an idea had been bubbling away, so I put pen to paper and went with it. The lack of any ability to edit in mid-sentence (as I’m doing now on my PC) was faintly horrific and recalled writing stories and essays at school, but I ploughed on. As time ran out, my handwriting became less and less legible, but I managed to bring it to a satisfying conclusion just in time. It was just like an exam. But unlike exams, we then had to read our compositions out to everyone else. Ouch. At least I didn’t have to read aloud an appalling history essay I once wrote when I had a rush of blood to the head and compared the Earl of Danby to a rabbit.

But everyone seemed to like my piece and once we’d gone around the table (there were a couple of surprisingly gruesome deaths served up by the sweet old ladies) it was time for tea.

We then did it all again with another poem but this time we only had fifteen minutes. Bloody hell. I knew I needed a kick up the arse and the imposition of deadlines that I couldn’t wriggle out of, but this was certainly in at the deep end.

There’s another informal meeting in a couple of weeks (apparently some actual men go to that one) where pieces are read out to each other. The topic is “The Reunion” with a word count of up to 1000 words. After having just minutes to knock something up, two weeks sounds like a piece of cake…

tea pen & paper

20 thoughts on “The Writers’ Group

  1. Sounds like a blast ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reminds me of debating. When you’re used to 1/2 hour preparation, 1 hour seems like a long time.

    I really need something to do, so I could probably join a local writing group. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tiegan!
      The reason I went along to the group was to get ‘forced’ into writing something by a specific deadline (not that the dear old ladies would have thrown me across the table with my arm up my back). But an online commitment is easier to wriggle out of than when you’re in a face-to-face situation. Having said that, I didn’t expect to be presented with an ‘instant creativity’ challenge!
      It was daunting but a really good way to get you physically writing and engaging with supportive people.
      Go for it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You’ve got to watch those old ladies… those gruesome deaths are a peak behind their curtains of domestic disguise.

    I went to a similar local group for short stories a few months back. I was the youngest in the group (by a generation), and we had the wonderful background music from the ballroom dancers next door… loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was one who’s story about the people in the house in The Listeners seemed to go off on its own sweet way that bore no real semblance to the poem. There was a strict old granny that came to live with the family in the house but who drove everyone up the wall and then the dad could take it no more and massacred everyone in it (including the 12 kids). Went from cute Victoriana to brutal homicide in about three lines.
      Never judge a book, or an old lady, by appearances…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting process. I would have been just as wide-eyed and awkward – write on the spot? Right now? I liked both of the pieces and I’m amazed you wrote those so quickly. Go to more of them and post the results, if you would. It’s fun to pop over here and read ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Diana! As an admirer of your writing that means a lot, considering they were so rough & unready!
      Yes, although I felt outside my comfort zone, that’s actually what I need. There were moments when I thought that it wasn’t really for me but then I realised I was getting a fair bit of value out of it. And, in a perverse way, it was fun! And gave me more bloggable content.
      I might see if I can use my laptop next time though, my handwriting just isn’t up to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The blogging content is definitely a plus! I like challenges that stretch me even though initially I’m often hesitant to try something new. I enjoyed reading them both ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh… Too familiar. I went to a few in my town and found out that not only was I the only male, but I was the youngest by far. The tattoos on my arms were distracting them and drawing way too much attention to myself. There was one thing that I didn’t think of going into it and that was I was going to have to read out loud, something I haven’t done since the third grade. I unfortunately stopped going, saying the word “pass” every week was becoming too much. Thanks for this post it was an awesome read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!
      Yes, it can be quite unnerving. I guess I’m lucky in that I’m quite a relaxed kind of bloke who can take most things in my stride, even when I’m out of my comfort zone. I used to help run a theatre group, and give presentations and training in work environments, so reading aloud to a load of strangers isn’t an issue for me – but I know it can really prey on the minds of a lot of people.
      If it stresses you out, don’t force yourself to go. But if you can find a friend to go with you, or find a younger group, you can get a lot out them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It seems like a really fun group though. Although you seem to be drowing in a sea of old ladies. These deadlines may very well serve to get your creative juices flowing. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, it’s been great to have to write to criteria (even if it’s quite loose) and to specific deadlines. We’re now looking at relaunching the group and getting into the 21st century by use of a group blog. And I’ve been hauled on to the committee!

      Liked by 1 person

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