Taking the Fear Out of Writing

I just completed facilitating a Taking the Fear Out of Writing workshop at The Commons at Central Hall here in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. We had anticipated about five in the class, but by the time we started there were 10 enrolled … and they kept coming back week after week.

The amazing thing is the transformation IΒ  saw over our six weeks together. When we started, they were reluctant to come out of their writer shell. We’ve all been there. I don’t know what to write. Who cares about what I write? I just have these thoughts. What can I do next? Share my words?

Monday — our last gathering — they couldn’t wait to share their words.

I don’t think I did anything special during our session, although I encouraged them to share their work in our controlled setting. While I tutored on the hub of storytelling — who, what, when, where, why and how — and dealt with genre, characters, story and character development, dialogue, and the importance of a strong beginning and end wrapped around compelling story, I also emphasized to them the importance of knowing who their audience was — even if the audience was one, themselves.

In other words, I told them it was important for your thoughts to reflect your values. It doesn’t matter if anyone else reads your words — they are a history of, well, you. It puts your life in context.

We discussed different writing styles — journaling, short stories, fiction, nonfiction and poetry {thanks to my friend, neighbor, and published poet Tom Lyford}. We discussed how the different styles are similar and how they differ.

To push them, I gave them a weekly assignment — a five minute writing prompt {thanks to the Five Minute Friday writing community}. The diverse prompt words brought diverse reactions, bringing out the blessings from the Christians in the group, earthiness for others, self evaluation for others. At least three indicated they would follow Five Minute Friday, others were looking for alternative prompt spots. All noted the exercise “forced” them to sit down and write, or, as I noted, took away some of the fear of writing.

The artistry of writing is in its individuality. We could write about a common prompt or issue and come up with our own interpretation. There is no right or wrong {except for news reporting where that pesky thing called facts comes into play}.

I emphasized that last point in every class. There are conventions in style, but there are just as many exceptions that individualize the process.

To see how much they absorbed over the six weeks, I challenged them with a writing “game”. I picked about 20 famous two or more word book titles, split them and put them in a bowl. I had each participant pick to slips and write a book title based on those two slips. Next, I had them write a lead paragraph; identify the W’s and H – What, Who,Where, When, Why & How (the hub of the story); identify and describe their characters; write some dialogue between characters; write a poem, either standalone or worked into the story; and finally finish the story. The twist was after each “assignment” they passed their work to another member of the group.

That meant they had to personalize each segment based on someone else’s thoughts, think and write on the fly, and come up with a fairly readable final product. They succeeded! Each of the short stories were readable and made sense. They were not just random thoughts, but built upon what they were given.

As I scanned the table, I saw the group busily embracing the project. Or, another way of saying that, they showed no fear as they tackled writing.

I hope they continue to follow their heart and put words down on paper. If nothing else, those words are part of their individual legacy, which should be passed down to future generations.

Members of the group asked if there was a way to continue. I am pleased to report The Commons is willing to give some space for a writing group (share and support) on the third Wednesday of the month, 1 p.m., at The Commons, beginning Aug. 21. It is open to any writers in the area to share our work and constructively critique.

I may have facilitated the group, but they taught me. They reminded me why I write. They renewed my passion. So, thanks to The Commons for allowing me to lead this workshop, and a special thank you to my students — Adrienne, Charlotte, Jim, Joan, Lillian, Mari, Mary, Peg, Rich and Victoria!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t make life more complicated than it has to be … just keep it simple. It’s simply life. — LaTrice Brandon

 

 

 

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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9 Responses to Taking the Fear Out of Writing

  1. Stacey Lynn says:

    I definitely need to practice that whole “keep it simple” mantra πŸ™‚ Sounds like everyone had a great time!

  2. It’s not that I am scared of writing,
    the thought is oh so silly!
    It’s my laptop I find terrifying
    because it spies on me.
    I’m sure it’s under the control
    of aliens circling in the night
    who hold, for humans, vitriol
    and who’re spoiling for a fight.
    Sometimes they complete my words
    though I’m supposed to have the helm
    so often have Word and I crossed swords…
    Bill Gates is one of THEM!
    If you think I’m a walking Paranoia poster,
    just let me tell you of my toaster…

  3. Bruce R. Matthew says:

    Hi Joe. It’s like you expressed earlier. Just write. Write from your heart, and write what you feel inside of yourself. We are all the authors of our lives. I have learned through PTSD therapy, that it’s best to express our thoughts. This has been very good therapy for me. I even discovered that I have a flair for writing. So, don’t be shy. Just express your thoughts. When you write from your heart, the words will fall into place. Remember the old adage: Practice makes perfect.

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