By Karen Wielinski
When I moved to East Aurora in 2010, I arrived as an empty nester, and I knew I needed to keep busy. Downtime seemed to magnify loss and loneliness. I checked classes that were being offered through the East Aurora Community Education Program, and creative writing caught my eye.
I contacted the moderator of class. Rick Ohler is a published author and writer, who has been offering would-be writers an opportunity to present their works since the late 1980s. I nervously attended the class. It was a great relief when Rick and the other writers liked my piece. Such encouragement is a big benefit of becoming involved with a writing group.
As I became a regular of the group, I would balk at some of Rick’s suggested prompts – ideas that would hopefully inspire us to write essays. I soon found that I was being inspired to write not only about my life as a wife, mother and widow, but I also began to reflect more on my childhood in Buffalo.
Such groups provide writers with an audience to present their ideas to, and they also give us an opportunity to consider different techniques and genres. Our vision is expanded. I have been introduced to fictional medieval kingdoms, the life of sideshow circus folk, and the mistreatment of the mentally ill in the early 1900s. I have to admit, though, that one downside is the fact that some writers start us on these journeys, but stop coming to class before finishing their tales – our imaginations have to decide endings for these stories.
I have been attending sessions for seven years now, and despite the fact that my specialty is primarily memoirs, I have branched out into fiction and poetry. On the fictional side, I have explored the life of an artist’s mannequin, and written a tale of a lady whose popularity as a teen took a slide downhill as she got older. Much to my surprise, I wrote a sonnet about a kiss, and another poem that expressed the affects of sounds that have the power to haunt me.
That particular poem originally started out as 12 lines and had about 20 words. I was urged to expand my thoughts to reflect my feelings of those sounds. The night it was read, there were only three of us at the session. We each read the poem out loud. Hearing the work in three different voices was memorable – inflections in each person’s voice brought a different perspective to my words.
The option to have others read our work out loud is another benefit of embracing the writing group. It is always interesting to see how a change in pitch or intensity of a voice can change the way we see our work.
For me, the writing process is definitely a form of therapy, and over the years, our group often finds that our meetings do turn into therapy sessions. We are confident that what we talk about will go no further than that room.
Writers also need to be able to accept criticism, and a writing group can give us opportunities to deal with that reality. In time, we accept the possibility that we can improve our stories, and learn to take criticism and editing as helpful tools – well, maybe we do.
I feel everyone has a story to tell. I cannot stress enough the two biggest benefits of embracing a writing group: encouragement and inspiration. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you receive that support.
I love so many pieces I have written since joining the writing group. I once asked a writer friend if that made me vain or conceited. He replied: “No, that means you have been inspired and fulfilled.”
Inspiration to become fulfilled – what a great reason to embrace writing groups.