Resolutions, intentions, goals… whatever you might want to call it. For me, I decided to pick one word for 2019. And the word I picked was clarity. I had it engraved on a ring and placed it on my finger before the new year began. I was wearing it at a retreat over the weekend; a retreat where we focused on “Finding Your Life’s Deep Current.” I was always curious when I drove by the place called Spirit Rock, but perhaps a little fearful of what might be behind the gate.
A friend of mine told me about this retreat at Spirit Rock. “It’s a writing retreat,” she said. Always looking for the next step in my writing world, I leaped at the opportunity. Okay, let’s be honest. I studied the website. I tried to read between the lines. I probably read through the entire program at least six times before I found the courage to click on the registration button.
We breathed. We meditated. We listened. We wrote freely at several prompts. And then… we shared our writing with a complete stranger. Not just one stranger. Each prompt was to be shared with a new stranger. Journal writing an be a powerful thing. Standing up to what you have written, sharing with another human being whose path has never crossed yours is emotionally draining yet liberating.
But here’s the thing. As I read my piece to the last stranger, I noticed she was leaning in just a little closer, truly listening to each word. It was her turn. I listened to her read her words and found myself leaning in a little closer absorbing every word. We looked into each others eyes and it was as if we were looking into a mirror. It wasn’t just that we were close in age and our outward appearance was similar – we shared the same inner truths. But that’s not all. I asked her name. “Marge,” she said. “But that’s my name,” I said.
So what does that have to do with “52 Pieces of Me?” I’m not so sure but I have a feeling if I share 52 pieces of me, I might just find some more “Marge’s” out there.
And about the ring… I have abandoned the idea of having only one word for the year. I wore this ring for only a couple of weeks and I can see more clearly now. I could wear a stack of words on my fingers (and I might) but the truth always comes from within.
If one writing group is good, would two groups be great? I discovered the power of a writing group a dozen years ago when I thought I was ready to write my memoir. The group was warm, welcoming and inspiring. But I wasn’t ready.
Last spring, following an e-mail signature-line link, I discovered a memoir class at a local library – exactly the push I needed. Several classes later I knew I had found the right place, a compassionate group, gentle critique, and a strong coach. Problem is, after eight weeks, the class was over. Eight chapter drafts sat untouched on the edge of my desk for the entire summer. Guilt began to sink in. I couldn’t risk letting another dozen years pass before I picked up the pieces – by then I might be too old. When September came and I found out the class had morphed into an official writer’s group, I grabbed my pink notebook and a couple of my favorite pens and headed to the library.
I am comfortable with this library group. It gives me a safe space to write and share that crappy first draft. I trust and accept the feedback from this group of eight women and one man. Our individual stories may be different but they all peek into the souls within us, all the way down to the soles of our feet.
But I still have that tough inner critic who tells me I am not author material. So I joined a second writing group, one made up of authors (by my definition, writers who have published their words). My thinking – wouldn’t this be the perfect place to take the draft from the memoir group, clean it up, and share with these “professionals?” Two chapters into it, confidence grows with positive encouragement.
Now I begin to reflect. This group is a mix of fiction and memoir writers. There may be some truth in fiction but as I reveal my story to this new audience, I wonder if I have the strength to share the whole truth. And, beyond that, do I really want the world to know? The answer comes. I have a story to tell. The grace to tell one’s experience, strength and hope, gives others the courage to tell their story.