I sit with others at a long table, six with notebooks and one with a laptop. We’ve come together to write. Some are beginners; some have a lifetime of writing behind them. All want to explore their deepest thoughts and feelings. When I enter this space, I’m filled with a sense of belonging, the joy of creativity, and a surge of hope. I discover new words and ideas I didn’t know were within me. My life takes on new meaning as it becomes a story on a page.
At the table, there is no background noise, except for the soft clicking of computer keys, the scratch of pens, and the quiet turning of pages. After we write, we share the words that tell us what we did not know before we put them down on paper. We listen to each other and ourselves and know that we are heard. When we comment on each other’s writing, it’s easy to follow Ellen’s guidelines to be encouraging, kind, specific, and honest in order to improve our writing and communication skills. At the Writing Room Workshop table, I am enough and what I write is enough, even if there are muddled unfinished thoughts, misspellings, and punctuation catastrophes to be sorted out later.
On this July night, the room is cool. The world outside the big window is green and floral. On the deck, there is one hot red hibiscus bloom and on the table a small vase of delicate pastel flowers from the garden. Scents of summer float through the open door. I faintly hear the serenade of birds, less boisterous now than a few months ago since their territories are established and the males have less to prove.
In this safe intimate container, I dare to write what matters most to me and others do, too. I hear the on-going struggles, childhood adventures, and daily events of these writer’s lives. I trust them with my inmost self, although I do not know most of their last names. And they trust me.
This class is a weekly gift I’ve given myself for over four years. I drive 40 minutes for the joy of being here. I always bring a three page essay I’ve written during the week, although it’s optional. Our teacher Ellen Schmidt reads our home pieces and responds in the margins with light pencil while we write from her prompt, or “spark” as Ellen calls it, or write whatever needs to spill out on the page. Then we read what we’ve written that night and what we’ve brought from home, although we’re never required to read out loud.
I usually arrive a little early to feed special treats to Ellen’s curly haired little dog Otter. He spins, always counterclockwise, whines in greeting, and sits for his treats. When everyone is settled, we gather ourselves in silence, these people I know so deeply without knowing where they live or work or other details of their lives. And then we write.
Writing Room Workshops keep my writing fresh and alive. I usually write the first draft of my blogs here, and I trust a second book will emerge through time spent writing at Ellens’ table. Both men and women participate in her classes. If you are a writer, where do you receive inspiration for new ideas? If you haven’t written much, do you yearn to experiment with words in a safe encouraging atmosphere? For more about writing with Ellen Schmidt, see my post “Writing through the Rough Spots.” Who Knows? Maybe I’ll see you at Ellen’s table.