It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m eager to get to my desk for my Method Writing class with Jules Swales. This will be the last session of our summer group – five weeks practicing a foundational writing tool: the image moment. I feel the anticipation to be back amongst these writers knowing we have made it to the finish line of another weekly assignment. We show up to witness the magic of the creative process in each other, as we share our pieces out loud. We are all very different writers, but together we have formed a community of commitment. We share a contract to hone our craft through this process. Each exercise takes us on a new treasure hunt through our subconscious, journaling into past memories, or into our imagination where characters come alive into cinematic sequences. Every week, we grow stronger at holding the reader captive through the tension and details of a moment.
I’m not new to writing. For the past twenty years I have facilitated private and group therapeutic writing workshops in a practice of poetry therapy, inspiring people to explore their life-histories through reading and writing. As a teacher, I give people permission to write without the pressure of needing to create a publishable product, and I use a specific process to help them look inside at the places that need healing. I too write every day as a practicing poet. I do it as part of my own healing work, but also professionally. I have studied deeply with teachers, toiled long hours with editors, and have published my work in a wide range of literary journals over the years.
But something was itching in me to step back into beginner’s mind and find a new avenue of developing as a writer. I was stuck in my same poetic voice and needed a fresh approach to reawaken my creative instincts. I decided to set aside the collection of poems I was busy submitting, publishing and assembling into a book, and try something altogether new.
Enter Jules. Over the past year, her classes have helped me peel back the layers of confection I’d dressed my writing in and toss away the rhetorical crutches I’d grown so used to leaning on. It was scary, I won’t lie. I felt exposed. But with her steady encouragement I stripped down my writing; I laid it bare. And from that sturdier base, she challenged me, week after week, to develop new writing muscles. I couldn’t have done it without her, or without the strong community of support her classes provide.
In our tight-knit group, I’ve watched novice writers discover their voices for the first time. I’ve watched experienced writers set aside their need to produce a ‘product’ and allow themselves to play with words again. We have fed off each other and grown from hearing the variety of voices and writing styles present in the group.
And as someone who has written only poetry for the past few decades, I have dipped a courageous toe into writing prose. This has opened up a whole new writing wilderness to explore. Down the road, when I return to my poetry collection-in-progress, I’m excited to see it through new eyes and to bring to it the bounty I have collected with Jules.