Share this article

print logo

Writing is therapeutic for many wordsmiths

I decide to join a writers group. As I enter the church meeting room and scan the seated, silent members, I ask myself: Is this a seance? Or a seanachie session?

Seanachie (pronounced shan-a-key) depicts a traveling storyteller in the old days in Ireland, often referred to as "one of the best-read men in the unwritten literature."

No dim lights, no candles burning -- I sense it's not a seance! A glance at the commanding figure seated at the head table reveals he lacks those characteristic, wind-swept ruddy Irish features. Intuitively, I discern this is not a seanachie session, or seisin, as it would be called in my country of birth.

Cautiously, but curiously, I seat myself between two colleens -- well, they might be such if they had a drop of Irish blood in their veins -- and await the activities.

Northside Writers, Western New York's oldest writers group, is about to kick into action.

From authors and aspiring writers, words -- nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions -- the lifeblood of literature, flow like water: streams of vowels, consonants, commas, semicolons, periods, all meander -- cascading into sentences, paragraphs and chapter clusters, consolidating into poetry or stories, word topographies of their own.

I watch members distribute their writings for critique and comment. Several request their efforts be read in silence, others read their works aloud. Subsequently, in review, some members write remarks on the handouts; from others, comments ricochet round the room. A few pass.

I read, remark, observe, reflect. For a moment, I daydream. I have a writer's apparition! What do I envision? Some writer's haunt? A smoky, music-drenched Irish pub? A chatty historical English tavern? An American speakeasy? Absent-mindedly, my thoughts wander to the works of some of the great masters: England's William Shakespeare, Ireland's George Bernard Shaw, America's F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, to name but a few. Conscious that famous writers and their drinks are frequently inseparable, I find it bizarre that we scribblers are meeting in, of all places, a house of scripture -- a church!

Recollection at hand, I wonder "where's the coffee?" I seek in vain -- no coffee in sight. I am parched in this teetotalers' delight. Time now moving on, hunger prompts me to think of "eats" -- no, not that great poet W.B. Yeats but some real grub. Saved at last, some kind soul passes sumptuous-looking, soft, sugar-coated cookies. I gulp them down. I am a diabetic. Do I lose self-control? Guilty!

Why do people write? To communicate? To entertain? To acquire fame or fortune? To express emotions? To unleash their imaginations, creating images with ink?

To write or not to write -- to paraphrase Shakespeare's soliloquy in his play "Hamlet" -- that is the question I pose to myself. Driven by some enigmatic unseen force to visit this writers group, I search for that elusive answer.

In addition to communication and income, I believe many write for pleasure or as a pastime; some to educate, a few to express their sense of humor. Others may have suffered bereavement, like myself, in the heartrending loss of one of my four daughters, a young mother of two infant girls.

They may join this endeavor not to forget, nor to wallow or drown in a sea of sorrow, but to continue on, devotedly writing, dedicating words -- written in the ink of tears -- to myriad pleasant memories of a priceless loved one gone. It is therapeutic!

Ray Geaney, who lives in Getzville and recently joined a writers group, shares his first impressions.