Today our Writer's Circle met for the fourth time. Eager to be together again, we talked a bit about our week, asked a few questions about the writing process and found ourselves ready to write. Closing our eyes, taking a moment to settle in, we readied ourselves. After a few moments I spoke out, "With eyes closed, imagine yourself face to face with an animal. Pick the first image that comes to mind. When you feel ready, quietly put your pen to paper and write."
Slowly, one by one, each of us picked up a pen and put it to the paper.
Using a prompt offers a unique way to get started writing. We may think we know the direction it will go, but quickly realize it's moving in a way we least expect. We keep scratching out words to discover what will happen next! This offers an element of surprise and keeps us curious as we write. Every person receives the same prompt but everyone's outcome is different.
After writing, each woman was invited, if she was comfortable, to share what she had written. All of us understood that these were rough drafts and that rough drafts are just...well...rough! But there will be time later for editing and careful working with the words to produce a finished piece. We bravely shared our words, vulnerably offering them to this safe group.
So, "face to face with an animal"...brought us to an appreciation of the uniqueness in each person's perspective. We came face to face with a variety of animals but they were not what you might think! We looked for words and phrases that gave clues. What animal was she writing about? Was there a deeper meaning? Listening for repetition, descriptions, rich words and deeper thoughts, kept us all focused and attentive. Everyone understood the fear that surrounded the sharing. But...after each reading we experienced the unexpected: an intake of breath, goosebumps, oohs and ahhs, gentle satisfied smiles and not a small amount of surprise for the listener as well as for the reader/writer.
When it was my turn, I read my piece aloud. What you see here isn't my initital rough draft. I've done quite a bit of editing since reading it out to our group.
Upstairs in the tiny bedroom of the rental on Second Avenue, she curls up in her little twin bed with the worn pink bedspread. Her sleepy white puppy curls up in a ball next to her, hiding those brown freckles on his soft pink tummy. Warmth, peace and calmness find their place in this room, within this house and its perplexing traces of unrest.
Although her Mom has already driven off to work hours ago, the morning light is just beginning to show itself through the thin shade covering the small window. Already Beatles music blares from her brother's room while Sonny and Cher smile down from her faded walls. And is that toast she smells wafting up the narrow stairway?
She doesn't care. She's blissfully settled in with that tiny white buddy who is totally hers, totally loyal, totally perfect. They snuggle under warm covers, longing to linger just a few minutes more.
Here, before the day begins, she's not tense. She doesn't have to worry about not having friends. She's not too fat or too shy. She's not mediocre here in this hidden safe place. She's not too pimply. Here she just is. The two of them together. No one is looking or thinking anything about her. Freckles' big brown puppy eyes are full only of love, acceptance and a place to belong.
Together they rest for a few moments of peace before the relentless voice-in-her-head takes over and she remembers that it is not OK to be who she is. With a deep sigh she rises, dresses, and heads out toward the hallways and classrooms of junior high.
I have enjoyed gathering this group of women to experience a safe place to grow as a writer. If any of you local folks are interested in joining us, contact me or House of Hope. We will be setting up another Writer's Circle very soon.