That Writers' Weekend
[Ooops! This is a long post! Oh, well...]
Some of you might like to know how the weekend went. I said there might be photos. But, as it happens, I didn't take any. Yes, I brought my camera, but there are times you take out the camera, and times you don't, and this weekend, I just didn't. As for walks in the woods... well, mea culpa, I didn't do any walking at all, beyond the few steps from one cottage (the food house) to the other (the writing/workshop-house), and back again. And the few paces from the back-door to the little chalet in which the hot-tub sat. Aaaah! (that is the sound of blissful relaxation)
It was a wonderful weekend. There were eight of us. We've been writing together a long time. (Can it be 12 years? Yes, it can!) This year, we'd decided to experiment with organising our retreat without a professional facilitator, relying instead on the accumulated skill and wisdom of the group itself to stimulate us into new writing, to provide inspiration, to introduce new poets, to energise, enthuse, encourage us, and it worked!
It worked so, so well, we ended the weekend with notebooks bulging with new work, beginnings of new work, lines and ideas. What we noticed was that this year in particular, everyone seemed to be relaxed and able to get "into the zone". At least once for each of us, the rest of the group listened to some piece of writing and, as it ended, let out a collective sigh of wonder, or a whoop of delight. It was such a treat to hear these raw, fresh, unretouched, unedited pieces of magic spilling from my friends. It was such a relief to find I could relax and let myself write, write, write. I produced more in those couple of days than I've written in the past 6 months, perhaps even the past year! -- Whoo-whoo!
What worked so well? Finding a place that was away from our usual environments. Declining to be shown how the TV worked. Choosing to have the main meals catered for us (just delivered - we heated the food, and served ourselves). Spending a couple of hours on Friday night making SoulCollage® cards, and for some of us we found we were making cards to represent the parts of ourselves we bring to the group. As always with SoulCollage, though, much of the time, we were just choosing and combining images with no idea WHY those images wanted to go together. We waited until Saturday morning to find out, leaving an array of cards out on the worktable when we went off for a dip in the hot-tub.
Raucus hilarity ensued. And a late night.
On Saturday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast. There was some concern that because we were self-directed this time, we wouldn't actually do much work. But that concern was totally unfounded. When we began working, it flowed very, very well. We started with writing in pairs in response to the cards we'd made on Friday night. Most people found that fascinating - the unconscious messages that were waiting to be unearthed from the cards they'd made. As a SoulCollage facilitator, I was delighted to see everyone take to that part of the process of working with the cards, and to hear positive feedback from the group.
Then we shared a "picnic of poems" - each member bringing two favourite (or newly-discovered) poems to the table. We read Hopkins, Roethke, Li Young Li. We had Alice Oswald, Yusuf Komunyakaa, Adrienne Rich, Robert Lowell... to inspire us. Was it any wonder that, when we did begin to write that we were softened up, loose, working out of the right-brain?
Because the prompts and exercises were chosen and offered by "one of us", no-one felt under pressure to perform. We didn't feel judged - or certainly not in the way that we might with an unfamiliar, well-respected writer presiding over our workshop!
We wrote poetry (or material for poems!) on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, we ventured into the realm of fiction - looking at "the character-based story", led by one member who has a marvellous novel under-way. Most unusual tip from her? Write while listening to music you don't particularly like. It keeps your critic busy! I met a character I quite like. She may well be given voice again sometime soon!
We finished up with a leisurely lunch. Satisfied. Full of plans for "next time". This group is such a treasure in my life. I love them. I love IT - the group itself. We shared laughter, bits of our lives, concern for family members, good news, great ideas, shifted perspectives. We witnessed for one another this weekend, and it was good. I'd love to be able to share the spirit of this weekend with all the blogging writers out there who have bemoaned the fact that they don't have a writers' group to share with. I think I know how blessed I am in this group. They are soul-sisters.