Dissolution of our Writer’s Group

Sad news everyone. My writing group has dissolved. First we met monthly at a member’s house in Bethesda, then every other week and now apparently never. A couple of weeks ago the host quit, and it was a downward spiral from there. Others responded by saying that they could continue, but sporadically. Maybe I/they could host, but only sometimes. We tried to coordinate a time to meet over Skype, but then one of the founding members of the group quit too. A couple of weeks later our chairperson revealed she had a new baby and job on the way so she would have to step down as well. Finally, on Monday we received an e-mail entitled “Dissolution of our Writer’s Group.”
I have to say, I’m actually really sad about this. I didn’t even want to talk about its slow demise over the blog until I was absolutely sure it was happening. During my Christmas break in New York, I met up with a writer-friend (who has been much more prolific than I’ve been) for some wisdom, and she specifically noted that it was great that I had a group of people to read my work. Technically, I think most people are still willing to provide feedback to anyone who requests it, but I really enjoyed the discussion aspect of the group. I liked both debating about a piece with other people, and hearing others analyze what I had written. It’s also informative to see people’s reactions up close.

We agreed that in three months we would check in with everyone to see how people’s schedules look. My guess is that they will probably look the same, and the question will really be—have you been re-inspired to join during the past three months? Regardless, it’s been a great experience and I’ve made some writer friends, which is nice. More importantly, I adopted my cutie cat Jack (below) from one of the members!

In total, I’ve submitted three stories to the group, and I’ve applied feedback from each session to my novel…synopsis? Yup, I’ve figured out what I’m going to write about. I have the beginning, middle and end in my head as well as the stories behind the two main characters. I even wrote 350 words! But I’ll get into that a bit more another day. Today, I’m mourning the writing group. In honor of that experience, below are links describing the good times. Lata!

Baby Steps: Learning to Writer at the Writers Center

10 Things I Know About Creative Writing That I Didn’t Know 6 Weeks Ago

Networking, Bonding and Possibly Drinking

Lawyer Stress Followed By Writer Rest

In the Hot Seat: Critique and Criticism Right in Front of My Face

In the Hot Seat: Critique and Criticism Right in Front of My Face

Writing GroupsI was in the hot seat yesterday.  I met with a group of writers last night and the topic of discussion was…my story!  As part of the rules, I had to sit quietly while the others discussed my piece like it was legitimate work of literature.  Before I get into that experience, a little background—basically, back in April we all signed up for a short story workshop at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md., where we engaged in riveting discussions about both published stories and each other’s work weekly.  Since the members of the class worked so well together, a couple of the students suggested that we keep it going.  The idea was to force ourselves to keep writing and to maintain relationships with people actually willing to read and comment on our stuff! We have a chairperson, record minutes, and discuss each other’s work or engage in writing prompts every other week.  It’s pretty laid back and chill.

Last week, I somehow managed to crank out the story that has been in my head for a while.  While I would like to say that woke up early and wrote it over a pumpkin chai latte made from local pumpkin, I did not.  Rather, I ended up writing the thing in my office. So lame. For a couple of days, I stayed for an extra hour and knocked it out.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I was productive in a quiet and functional space, but I wouldn’t exactly call the office…inspirational.  Whatevs, I got it done.

Anyway! So the story is about a relatively normal and stable girl who accidentally gets addicted to painkillers.  The feedback I received was actually very interesting and surprising to me.  It’s kind of a crazy experience to have people legitimately analyze something you have written right in front of you!  One person described it as a “period piece” because it involved someone in her mid-twenties who was unmarried and still somewhat reliant on her parents.  He said that this story simply could not have happened a generation ago, when people got married at 20, had kids at 22, and essentially “matured” at an earlier age.  That was a valid point and, moreover, a reaction that I never would have anticipated.  I enjoyed listening to that part of the discussion.  I was also told that I took on an “existential question” because my character spent a portion of the story trying to figure out what was real and what was not.  To me, that seemed like a logical struggle because she was a drug addict.  I did not quite think of it as an “existential question” until the discussion went there, but I guess he was right!  I left the meeting feeling energized and inspired.

That all said, we all (myself included) agreed that the writing could be better.  I get so excited about having an idea that sometimes I forget that the real work comes in the editing and crafting the language.  I may be able to create some intrigue with the monotone version of the story that I submitted, but I know it won’t have the desired impact unless I sit down and commit to making it good.  The work involved with that process is probably why the two other short stories I have written have never been revised; however, I actually like this one.  It’s less autobiographical and therefore it has a lot more potential!  Who knows, maybe I’ll turn it into a book!

That’s what’s been going on here.  Hasta luego!

Love is a Drug

broken heartSo today, I’m going to do something out of the norm.  I’m going to discuss an idea that I will write within the next couple of weeks.  Meaning, I’m actually going to write some fiction! Seriously!  My writing group has been meeting for a couple of months now and it’s reaching the point where I should try to produce something rather than simply drink other people’s wine, eat cookies and share my wisdom.  Side note: in case you’re wondering what I, who has no creative writing experience beyond the class where I met these people, offer the group, it’s this: the perspective of a random person who feels like reading a story. 🙂  In other words, I choose to critique as a consumer, asking, if I purchased a book/magazine that included this piece of fiction, what would I think? Would I be satisfied? Confused? Bored? Distracted by factual errors?  I do this because, despite studying History and Literature, I don’t like to provide, like, deep literary analysis.  When I read fiction, I’m looking for an enjoyable experience.  What I’m saying is,  I’m not looking to study and analyze fiction anymore, I just want to think and feel. Lalala.

But back to THE IDEA.  Basically, I’m thinking about writing a short story from the point of view of an addict.  Not because I’m an addict (I’m not), and not because Whitney Houston’s death made me cry (it did).  Rather, as I lived my life (aka my research),  I’ve had the reoccurring sense that being in love is like an addiction.  I know what love is like, so can I use that experience to write a story about, you know, substance abuse? We’ll see. Don’t get me wrong—I love love.  But it does essentially require one to, in many ways, prioritize something else over themselves.  Typically this is a positive thing, which is why relationships and families are wonderful.  However, love, or the idea of losing love (much like drugs/alcohol or the idea of losing drugs/alcohol), can make people do some pretty crazy things: they may stop doing the activities they enjoy, alienate themselves from friends and family, quit their jobs, go against their core convictions or beliefs, spend crazy amounts of money, etc.  In extreme cases, they are willing to endure physical abuse to their bodies or even die! And, of course, once someone has decided quit, there are the withdrawal symptoms.  Trying to recover from addiction (be it to a substance or a person), one endures stress, weight loss, anxiety, among other things.  They have their good days and their bad days, and require a tremendous amount of strength to stay away from things that may send them spiraling back down the wrong path.  In the case of love that might avoiding a specific, toxic person rather than staying away from love itself (although, I do believe people run into problems when try to avoid deep relationships altogether).  So that’s something I plan to explore.  We’ll see how it goes.  Later dudes!