"I'm glad to find this group," our new writing partner says. "Writing can be so isolating," she explains. I nod my head, even though I haven't the faintest idea of what she means. For one thing, I rarely accomplish much writing, left to my own devices. That's why I started a writing meetup, to create the environment and accountability to accomplish writing on a regular basis. It's been wildly successful in that regard; I've never written more than I have in the months since I began the group.
The deeper reason I can't relate is because I never feel completely alone when I write. I have the writer's voice, the critic's voice and the doubter's voice all wrapped up inside my mind. When I'm alone and writing, I am so busy fending off the "that's a lousy description" and the "nobody will care what you write" voices that it can be a challenge to hear the writer's voice at all.
In this company of kindred writing spirits, I not only feel more free to express what I must say, I feel compelled to be engaged in The Work, if only in solidarity with my fellow writers. If I don't keep putting words on the page, if I'm not contributing my own alchemical creativity to the Soup, who knows what great novel or epic poem might be stymied? If we don't support each other in this travail, who will?
Nature does. Our writing meetup gathers at the most unlikely places in urban Los Angeles: duck ponds. Hiking trails. Parks with playgrounds. Japanese gardens. Wildlife preserves. Historic sites. Meditation gardens. And, yes, on the patios of coffee bars. The format of our group is simple. Check in and write, write, write. We don't review or critique each other's work. We just write.
It's not that I don't ever want a critical review or see the value in sharing and receiving constructive input. There is a time and place for it. However, I will never get to the point of asking for reviews if I don't first put some words down on a page. I'll never even get to that first necessary shitty draft (in the words of Anne LaMotte), but for the inspired and magical environment that sitting down with a group of devoted writers generates.
I bless the Writers of the world, especially the kind and courageous souls who keep showing up in the most unlikely places with me to write. I am grateful to be among kindred spirits.
This post is dedicated to the Natural Muse meetup writers, especially Christy, Laura and Tony, who have kept me writing diligently for more than a year.