Writer’s Workshop

I got an alert on Friday telling me that by Sunday (yesterday) I should be finishing the first draft of Part 1 of my secret writing project (hitherto referred to as ‘That Thing I’m Writing’ until it has enough being to be given a name of its own). Naturally, I was nowhere near that optimistic deadline.

In light of this, I decided that it was time to drag my writing ambitions out of the closet and give them some real world responsibility. Saturday morning therefore, found me attending my first Writer’s Workshop at High Park Public Library.

Before going in, I printed off some pages of ‘That Thing I’m Writing’, half hoping I’d just put it on the table with my pen and smile courteously for an hour and a half. Anyway, I had no idea what one did at a writer’s workshops. Maybe I could slip through this as an affectionate bit of furniture instead of actually contributing.

In the end I sat at a table with 7 other people. We went around the table – each person sharing something they’d written. One guy had a hilarious piece of short fictional. Another woman had something that was called flash fiction. It was a snippet of intense memory retold in a brief piece of prose. An older woman had a couple of really sharp and interesting pieces about people she’d met around town.

Within the first 5 minutes I was disarmed by how genuine, open, encouraging and excited each person was to present their work and help others with theirs. Not only were they very supportive and welcoming to each other, but also, they were seriously talented! It eventually came around to my turn to share.

Now for anyone who knows me, you know that although I am an outgoing person – I have one of the more heart stopping cases of stage fright. Also – reading an excerpt from something I have told precious few people about left me with cold fingers and toes as well as a growing sense of internal brain freeze. A sense of responsibility won out though and seeing as how I’d committed to taking part, I read a small piece of what I’d brought.

You know what? They liked it! They had positive feedback and some great pointers as to how I might make it better and how I could continue in my process of making ‘That Thing I’m Writing’. Nothing bad happened and no one slapped me on the wrist and said ‘Bad Lisa – how dare you think you could write?!’

So I am definitely going back next Saturday. Each person I met there was so smart and incredibly passionate. I can’t wait to see them again and to share more of ‘That Thing I’m Writing’. I now feel a deeper sense of value in what I’m making. It’s not just a silly thing living in Scrivener. Like a painting, I have to continue giving it body and layer by layer, it will become something.

A Window

It is a myth that we are all special individuals who are destined for some unique personal glory. As a part of this myth, we seem to believe that our differences separate us into lonely planets, orbiting the sun with long suffering, internalized sighs. We remain tragically separate from those who we imagine could never understand the poignancy of our longing. I reject this myth for something that is more powerful and far less lonely. In practical terms, we exist in an ocean of sameness – of animal reaction and behaviour that composes the spectrum of our human experience.

It’s interesting that with all this sameness, we are constantly surprised to find friends and allies in unlikely places. In the same sense that we live out the lives of our parents; we live out the same human lives, generation after generation. In a sense we’re like a dog who lives a life that is not so dissimilar from the other dogs on his block. If he moves in his lifetime, he will experience a hiccup that leads to a readjustment to the new normal for a new place with new circumstances. But he will still be a dog; just like all the other dogs in his new neighbourhood.

It is in some way frightening to think that our individual loveliness is worthless. It is more accurate though to see individuality instead as a single flower in a field of flowers – each blossom being a different spin on the general plant / flower archetype – whose life cycle and behaviour is bound within the confines of flower-hood.

What’s great about story telling is sharing with a community of like minded people a story about themselves. The significant act is in documenting a common history that is unknowingly shared between neighbours. We read a satisfying story and are surprised to find ourselves in someone else’s life. Perhaps the gift of Art is in providing that tactile window into a bigger and richer collection of as yet unstated experience. As artists we pull a thread at that faceless human experience to present to ourselves an idea, moment or story that will in turn inspire, comfort or enrage someone else as they see for the first time, a part of themselves reflected.