Ever since I started my creative writing degree in 2008 I have been a part of two writers’ groups at the university where I studied. One was primarily a prose group. Each meeting the participants are given a writing challenge. The latest challenge was to finish a 1000 word short story with the last few words of a classic novel. The resulting stories were amazing in both the variety and the quality.
During the last four years I have also been a part of a poetry critiquing group. Over the last two years I have helped to organise this group. We also set writing challenges for the participants. It might be a set theme or a set form (eg sonnets) and sometimes both. The discussions are also very stimulating.
On Saturday just gone I joined yet another writers’ group. This group meets only a few times a year, usually in someone’s home. The group has a discussion on a set topic and then there is a sharing of current projects before breaking for a shared lunch – and more informal discussions. This group has a special focus, as it’s title implies: it is a Christian Professional Writers’ Association. All of the participants are either professional writers – or aspiring to be. Everyone in the group has a publishing record, and is striving to have more published. Our focus discussion this time followed on from the last meeting: “What is Christian fiction?”
I find that attendance at such meetings to be very stimulating, always generating new ideas, new writing avenues, networking (I found out about a potential opening at a publisher for my novel), encouragement and just plain good fun. If critiquing of one’s writing is also part of the activities, this is a bonus. Having others reading and commenting on your work is invaluable in the process of becoming a better writer – and more likely to get published.
I’d strongly encourage you to seek out a local group for writers and try it out.
Over the years I have written about 500 poems – I haven’t done an accurate count. Most of these were written when the inspiration came to me, usually when I was particularly moved by a scene, an event or a special set of circumstances.
Over the last year I have written about 40 new poems, some of them quite long, the longest being about 140 lines. Almost all of these were written ‘on demand.’ I wrote them because they were expected of me as a part of my Master of Arts course. Most weeks I had to produce a poem in a set format as a part of the assessment process. It was tough going, but I managed it. I found the discipline of enforced writing actually worked in my favour: I had to produce something and that meant honing my skills as a poet.
With this in mind I endorse the idea behind April being the Poem a Day month (click here for details and rules). Each day a writing prompt by Robert Lee Brewer of Poetic Asides on the Writers’ Digest site will be given and poets are encouraged to write a poem a day for the entire month – or you may choose to only write one every few days. All poems submitted will appear on the blog site.
It’s a good challenge. Are you up to it?
Not sure where I’ll find the time. [sigh]
Robert over at Middle Zone Musings is having another Group Writing Project. This time it is about what we learned from odd jobs. The same group writing project is being held over at good word editing and is called Lessons from Odd Jobs.
What I learned from having a job for a day
I haven’t had many jobs in my life. In high school I paid for my first transistor radio by spending a great slab of my summer holidays cutting apricots. These were then dried ready for sale in shops. It was hot, sticky backbreaking work. I was paid 12 cents a tray. Each tray was about a square metre in size and took about a half hour to fill. I didn’t get rich quickly.
My second job lasted 35 years and it was spent
behind bars in a classroom full of noisy children. More recently I’ve done some relief driving for a friend’s courier business. That’s it. The sum total of my working life. Except for one day.
In my second year of teaching I was the Head Teacher of a school in outback South Australia. Real frontier stuff. I had the grand title of Head Teacher. I was the only teacher. For a dozen children. Being the only government worker for nearly eighty kilometres in any direction I was offered a job for a day. Returning Officer for the government elections. I ran the polling booth in the classroom, opening at 8am and closing at 8pm and then waiting until nearly midnight for the ballot box to be collected.
So – what did I learn from having a job for just one day?
Patience sometimes has its own reward
I learned patience that day. If I remember correctly, I only had the grand total of 16 voters turn up for the day, and that included me! But sometimes patience has its own reward; I was paid more for that one day’s work than I earned as a teacher in about three weeks!
People are everywhere
This may seem like stating the obvious. But think about it… because our society is made up of people – lots of them in some places – we need to acknowledge that getting along with people is an obvious skill we all need. Few can afford to become hermits, or a recluse, and I do not think that this is healthy anyway. We may not love everyone, but we need to get along with everyone. From this I have learned tolerance.
People are demanding
Some people can be demanding on your time, energy and space. Some people have a highly refined habit of being in your face. Constantly. Patience. From these people I have learned patience in huge dollops. And to be less demanding of others myself.
People are generous
I am staggered by how generous people can be. They give of their time, money, skills, love, compassion and heaps more. These people have taught me to be less self-centred. From them I hope I am learning to develop my own spirit of generosity.
People are courageous
I admire people who step out on a shaky limb and try things. They live life. They get on with projects. They go places. They refuse to sit inside their little boxes and have pity parties. They do not say, “It can’t be done.” Instead they shout, “Why not?” I hope I can learn from them to take one brave little step…and then another… and another and…
People are loving
John Lennon captured this thought in the classic Beatles song “All you need is love.” It is a fundamental, basic necessity for everyone. I am so glad for knowing all those people who have taught me unconditional love. They love me for who I am, not what I have done. I am slowly learning from them the wonder of being loving in return.
People are different
Some people are curious. Some people are strange. Some people are wacky. Some people are downright weird. The wonderful thing about this is that it stops boredom; imagine if we were all the same? I have learned from people who are different that this rich tapestry of humankind is endlessly fascinating.
People are people
This is not a nonsense statement. People are not animals. Sometimes individuals are said to behave like an animal. But even the worse offender on the planet is a person. Let us not excuse the deed but let us always keep in mind that behind even the vilest behaviour is a human being. I have learned to respect and admire a select small band of people who are able to touch the untouchable and to love the unlovable. May I learn to be a little like them.
This article was written in response to the challenge given by Robert over at Middle Zone Musings. His Group Writing Projects are becoming legendary. Every contributor writes about the same topic, but that it where the similarity ends.
I love group writing projects.
Someone else comes up with an idea for writing something – it saves me straining that old grey matter. This time Robert over at Middle Zone Musings has done the hard work – he has thought up the topic. All we have to do is write the article suggested by his topic. Easy, smeasy, nice and …
I still have to write the article. Mmmm. There seems to be some flaw in my logic here. Too hard. Can’t think that through right now.
What I learned from…people
The latest Group Writing Project being run by Robert is called What I learned from… people. Click on the link to read all about it.
And if you come back here in a day or two, you might be able to read my contribution – if my brain is still working. I’d better get it into gear because the closing date is closing in fast – Feb 10th in fact.
Go to it.