Inspiration for writers can come from many places, live theater, modern art museums, strolling in the forest, but sometimes it’s just nice to be with people who share the desire to assemble words on a page. Sitting and talking about writing, the good, the bad and the ugly, can be cathartic. Our group, titled The Writer’s Inspiration Group, WIG for short, does more than chat. We write.
Every Tuesday for the past eleven years we meet at a local bookstore and share writing prompts with one another. We also eat chocolate, too, as a reward for sitting and writing. Who doesn’t like sugar? During the searing heat of a Phoenix summer, there might just be two or three of us. Come winter, we grow as people return from vacations.
WIG, as we call ourselves, was started by two women who took a creative writing class at a local community college here in Arizona. The women wanted to find a way to continue writing after the class assignments ended.
The classmate’s inspiration to begin WIG came from author Natalie Goldberg. Natalie, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has written several books about writing, her most famous being Writing Down the Bones. She’s also written fiction and memoir, and teaches writing throughout the world. Natalie’s writing books are often used as a reference when WIG members are asked how the group began.
In her books on writing, Natalie has encouraged writers to put aside the critical, editing mind and write without concern or fears of an audience. Her advice is simple, and yet oh so challenging for many of us plagued with anxiety about written self-expression. Don’t Think. Just Write. Don’t be logical, don’t try to control it. Easier said than done some might say, but Natalie has made us believers.
In her book, Wild Mind Living the Writer’s Life, Natalie wrote “rather than daydreaming about what you’d like to write, sit down for fifteen minutes, keep your hand moving, begin…” When people first come to WIG they often are surprised by such advice. Whether from a critical teacher, or parent, or their own raging self-doubt, first time visitors to WIG look stricken when told to just go ahead and just write. At WIG, we remind newcomers, as well as ourselves, everyone is worthy to express themselves creatively. We don’t care if people have or have not been published. If his or her work needs editing. All that matters is that one gets pen to paper.
First, we have a prompt. Natalie suggested something as simple as beginning with: “I remember.” From there we sit and write for ten minutes, our hand moving on paper with pen or pencil. Computers are allowed, but most of us return to the old-fashioned method. The tactical nature of pen on paper is something Natalie has encouraged, as well.
When we have written for ten minutes, we stop. Writers can choose whether to read their work aloud. When a writer reads, everyone just listens. No comments. Often there is laughter or sighs. No criticism. Then we do another prompt. I had attended many critique groups through my writing life, so this has been a welcome change and helped me relax. I have grown far more comfortable expressing myself freely and reading my work aloud minus fear.
In one of her prompts, Natalie suggested, “Make a list of what pleases you, all for yourself, not because your mom, your girlfriend or your aunt likes it.” Then Natalie said to pick just one those pleasures on the list and write more.
Natalie’s prompts have inspired members of WIG to create our own prompts, too. We cut photos from magazines, bring in post cards, whatever will encourage our imaginations or unearth memories.
One of my greatest pleasures has been the Tuesdays with WIG. A hoped-for writing goal is to finish a promising prompt, if desired, at home.
The group has its ups and downs, people come and go, move, have babies, new interests and sadly some have even have passed away. Still, a core group of WIG members, as well as the occasional new members, stay committed to Natalie’s advice. “Just go on writing no matter what.” We hear you Natalie.