Friday, 24 November 2017

You need friends by Tracy Alexander

I started writing by accident. I was on my way home from the supermarket when I stopped to look in the window of the bookshop and saw an advertisement for a writing group. I'd been electively unemployed for a few weeks – after twenty years of working – and was already bored by being at home. I went to the class. And my writing life began. For a fuller version of this story see: Sliding Doors
For a blissful year I spent every Wednesday morning with writers of all shapes and smells, sharing our attempts at the homework and throwing ourselves into the exercise of the day. It was great. I still remember certain pieces that had us all silenced be it by their power, their insight, their rolling gait. Trevor's personification of an Old Master, the life support machine, Joan's description of standing on a London train station in a red dress, Dawn's cleverly clipped poetry. But it wasn't the outputs, it was the relationships that were buoying. We all know how vulnerable it feels to give voice to something that has only ever lived in a word file. Being the recipient of all of those first airings was something to treasure.
The next school year came and I reluctantly left the class to enrol on the University of Bristol's Creative Writing Diploma. A new group to bob along with. We spent two years crafting both our writing and our criticism of others. Naturally there were those I looked forward to hearing from, and others whose words didn't ever resonate. The feedback was similar, much was helpful but writing isn't meant to please everyone and you choose your critics. All good learning. The twenty or so who started the course fell to just eleven by the time we graduated. Eleven souls that I'd seen the inside of.

A lull after that. I became a published writer and sat alone in my study. Years passed.
Until an invitation in that same supermarket to join three other writers in a supportive group. Marvellous. It was the smallest group I'd brought my writing to and the most intensive because we were all writing novels. What a plus to have people to remind you that you've missed a trick, or gone off at too great a tangent, or lost the plot. We laughed. We occasionally forgot to be kind and assassinated each other's darlings. But we celebrated our union at the book launches, giving credit for our writing friends' strokes of genius when we'd written ourselves into the bottom of a dark, dank well. We met for many years and then, in the way of things, we started to meet less, circumstances changed and contributions became more sparse, and, slowly, the group dwindled away.
And here I am.
Life has got in the way of my writing these last couple of years and it's dawned on me that to get my mojo back I need writing friends. I need the discipline that comes with a regular meeting where you're expected to contribute. I need the kind words and the cruel. In fact, any words. I've spent too long inside my own head and it's crammed full. So, it might take a few weeks, but I'm going to find my new family. I'll study their faces and tune my ear to their cadence and, as the weeks go by, I'll start to know who they are, whether they intend me to or not. And they will see the truth of me. I can't wait . . .


Sue Purkiss said...

Good luck with finding your new circle!

Anne Booth said...

That's so interesting. I relate to that sense of needing writing friends. Would you consider also running a creative writing class yourself? I have been asked to teach 6 sessions next year, and I want to make sure that they are as rewarding and insuring as your experiences obviously were. Do you have any tips?