I always wanted to write but had limited myself to business writing or snappy newsletter blurbs for our decorative painting business. At work I was the go-to person for office memos, procedure manuals, spelling, usage and grammar.
But to write for the sake of writing? Without a definite purpose to write toward? That felt too big and open. To move into storytelling? A short story? A novel? That was a bit like stepping off a cliff.
Then serendipity and synchronicity conspired to find me a writer’s group at the exact time my inner critic was napping. I signed up. Without thinking twice. Big GULP!
The circle of writers became my safety net.
I marveled at how the other women in the writers’ group could come up with amazing, cohesive pieces of writing in only 20-25 minutes, writing that flowed and moved the listener. Their words danced off the page in a very non-linear path. Free, rhythmic, colorful, musical. I felt intimidated but I was committed. I had made the “appointment” and was there to write.
Eventually something clicked with me. I became one of those women.
This does not mean that every word that flowed from my pen was exquisite. Not by a long shot!
What it means is that I had found a safe space to explore my voice, to write poorly and to write beautifully – sometimes in the same piece. I learned to recognize what worked and to let go what didn’t. I allowed fresh writing to flow without a critic and to hear what resonated with my listener/reader.
By writing I became a writer. In a circle of writers I got to grow as a writer.
In time I certified as an Amherst Writers and Artists workshop leader and began to lead my own workshops in ways that cultivated the creativity of the writers who joined me. I got to apply my own facilitation style. I got to deeply listen to the tentative voice and find the beauty. I got to see polish applied and the craft shine through. I got to create and hold safe space for writers to explore their craft.
That is what I will be doing here at The Purple Ink Café - creating and holding virtual space for writers to sit at their own writing tables and get to their writing; to write poorly or beautifully or anywhere in between. Space where new writers can think “here’s a place I can start.” Space for an experienced writer to be accountable to her practice and draw on the energy of the other writers.
Experience it for yourself! Join me in a Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Café. For more information and to register for the current circle click here.
Because by writing you become a writer. In a circle of writers you get to grow as a writer.
We’ve emptied my mother’s bookshelves twice in the past year. The first time was to pack up the books that would go with her as she moved to a smaller space. Even with dimming eyesight her books were essential. The rest were being donated, given away; a very few, tossed. Some made their way to my already groaning bookcases.
The second time was to put into storage those that made the first cut as she struggles to recover from a stroke. We know there will be one more time but that can wait.
This was not just a case of sorting and boxing. At least not for me. Going through my mother’s books was like reading a journal of her life. What was scattered throughout the pages was just as, if not more, interesting than what was on the pages. It was like an archeological dig.
They were artifacts.
It was much more than prettily decorated bookmarks with a ribbon and an inspiring quote. There were envelopes with blurred postmarks and barely remembered return addresses, the original letter long gone. Postcards from relatives also long gone marked spots that had held interest. There were newspaper clippings with store ads on the other side - a lesson in economics. There were random strips of paper, mimeographed meeting notes, church bulletins, holy cards, holiday gift tags and the cards that peeped out of the arrangements that had been delivered from the local florist. I kept the small tatted cross, probably from Aunt Annie.
All of these things and more were sprinkled among books on art, psychology, philosophy and religion. There was Wayne Dyer’s first book, Your Erroneous Zones. “It changed my life”, she told me. There were more books on self-improvement, diet, health. Old books that had been read to tatters and were wrapped in contact paper that I remember from my childhood, the pages discolored, the spines seriously impaired. Our irony soaked favorites were the myriad books on de-cluttering. There was the random novel, but only a few. Reading was a serious pastime; learning and personal growth serious pursuits. Our mother’s is a life lived with interest
Her cook books were my favorites. Since I was very young I claimed the oldest one as mine. The one that was falling apart even then and is now covered in faux wood contact paper. That would be my inheritance. It wasn’t for the content, although it was fascinating to see how a household was run in the 40’s, how to deal with wartime shortages and what constituted a serving back then. It was for the view into a busy, inquiring mind during busy, challenging times as she raised six children while watching her pennies. It was seeing articles throughout the years on ways to lose weight (when she was feeling heavy). It was the changing views on how to stay healthy and fit. It was cupcakes and setting a pretty table. I didn’t know there could be that many ways to make a cheesecake as clippings moved from low-fat to diabetic friendly. Her wish list of things to try exceeded the hours in a lifetime. Tucked into the bulging book were Woman’s Day articles, decade’s old, and yellowed clippings from the home section of now defunct newspapers. There are receipts and menus and shopping lists and memories of many meals over many years.
On the last blank page of the cookbook there is a crumb cake recipe. It’s in her handwriting, as familiar to me as the feel of my fingers on this keyboard. Such a personal artifact, the script distinct in its sweep and swirl, her penmanship beautiful and unchanging over the years. Until now. When her right hand no longer accepts commands from her brain.
All these artifacts, like flies in amber, illuminate a story from another place and time. They give us a glimpse so we might know our mother a little better. What will we leave as artifacts? What story will it tell?
Kathy Kane blogs about the creative process in the everyday, in writing and in the magical transition to the second half of life.
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