I believe the pen is mightier than the therapist. Just as someone working out in the gym needs a spotter when testing their limits on the bench, writers lift raw and heavy words onto the page. We test and push our memory and imagination muscles across our screens or pages. Writing groups should serve as a safe place to test our stories and have our words sample the air.
I have facilitated writing classes for seniors at MacEwan University for the past 10 years. When Heather Lee, a worker from The Mustard Seed, inquired about a local writing group, I thought it was high time I organized one. I have participated, led, and/or formed writing groups in Tallinn, Estonia; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and here in Alberta.
Writing has always been my place to figure stuff out, order chaotic emotions, or dissect troubling events, often leading to epiphanies. Journals and diaries, pens and paper have served me for 40 years.
If I’m confused, figuring it out on the page is key to clarity. I’m in awe of Irina Ratushinskaya, who wrote her poems on a bar of soap, memorized them to avoid discovery, then wrote them later on cigarette papers. Many of her cigarette paper poems were smuggled out of prison.
After mouthing off to the warden, I earned a day in solitary confinement. I was content like Br’er Rabbit in the Briar Patch with my pens and notebook. Perhaps I should explain. I was chair of the Women’s Mentoring Group in 1996. The guards and warden needed a practice day at the soon-to-be-opening Edmonton Institution for Women. Our group was happy to oblige as test prisoners. Regardless of what I wrote in my cell that day, imagining the absence of pens and paper feels devastating.
That might be why I will likely bequeath reams of paper and pens to my poet niece. She has admired my plethora of coloured paper, notepads, and journals. As sure as stories were first shared around ancient fires, I must have (okay, truthfully, hoard) over 200 pens, some favourite and some utilitarian. Far more than I need. In a 2018 spring writing class, I burned through three pens in one day. When other students asked how can I write so much, the instructor said, “Rusti writes with both hands.” The encouragement of being in a group can mean the difference between watching your thoughts evaporate and producing pages of viable text.
For anyone wanting to write, treat yourself to a journal with pages soft as rose petals on your cheeks. Find a pen that flows across the page smooth without scratching. If you need a pen, or if you are unsure where to start with words, or if you need a safe place to share words you have stored up for years, or if you have a manuscript to test, you can find me 1:30-3:30 pm every third Thursday at The Carrot Coffeehouse.
Avenue Word Adventuring is drop-in and free, with donations accepted for any handouts I may have occasionally. The beginning format will include writing for 30 minutes, then sharing and discussing for the remaining 90 minutes. The group structure may evolve to something different as some people may become regular attendees. Rest assured it will remain a safe place to capture and share words of all kinds.
AVENUE WORD ADVENTURING
The Carrot Coffeehouse, 9351 118 Ave
Every third Thursday, 1:30-3:30 pm
Featured Image: Join other writers in a supportive group. | Pixabay