In the Company of Writers

by Starla J. King on November 5, 2013

I’m not typically one for group settings, especially when it comes to writing.

Give me my quiet space arranged just so, a pile of cats on my desk corner, my “Writing” playlist serenading me at low volume, and all humans held safely at bay by an almost-closed door and phone on mute.

Yet there I was, sitting smack dab in the middle of the front row in a filled-to-capacity 3-day writing workshop.

Why?

Because Dani Shapiro!  In the flesh!  Talking to us!  About writing!

And, if I’m being totally honest, because I also wanted the company of writers.

Writing is often solitary work, and, most of the time, I love that.  But what I don’t love is feeling alone.  This writing life, even with its more understood counterpart of writing coaching that I use to balance my inner and outer work, is not easily understood by many people.  The constant burn to put our experience of existence into written words is quite difficult to explain, so often we simply don’t… and the ache to connect with others who find their deepest selves through their pen becomes strong.    At least it does for me.

That’s why I spent this past weekend at the gorgeous Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, taking part in Dani Shapiro‘s  Still Writing writing workshop. I wanted, no, needed to be among others who also feel that, as Dani says, “writing is an exquisite torture” … and to soak in the wisdom from a best-selling author whose work I admire.

Kripalu, lake view

Was it worth the time and money?  Oh goodness YES.  I

  • Met Dani Shapiro!  In the flesh!  A triple-exclamation-point experience!!!
  • Exponentially grew my writing community
  • Learned that it doesn’t matter if you’ve written a book already, it’s still daunting to read your work out loud (“Ultimately the place we write from is the sediment.” ~ Dani Shapiro)
  • Took notes about Dani’s skillful leading of the workshop, including ways to create and maintain a safe, connected space
  • Gathered page after page of writing wisdom, tips, topics, and techniques (“Write from where you are.” ~ Dani Shapiro)
  • Soaked in the treat of hearing excerpts of Dani’s book (Still Writing) in her own voice.
  • Decided with other participants that writers need an additional chakra:  the Quote Chakra (to store, of course, all the delicious quotes we hear and read)
  • Got inspired to the hilt
  • Had no obligation, between workshop sessions, to socialize, so I had freedom for introspection, processing, and long moments of deep quiet (“Find ways to cultivate the quiet that the work springs from.” – Dani Shapiro)
  • Confirmed that making a career of this creative life is absolutely what I want and am meant to do.

And now, 2 days after the experience, I sit here writing — a cat piled on the corner of the desk, my “Writing” playlist serving up some Elton John, all humans held safely at bay by an almost-closed door and phone on mute — but now I feel as though somehow I’m still in the beautiful company of writers.

Solitary workers or not, our work is ultimately, as Dani notes, about connection: “When we’re crafting, we’re trying to reach out our hand and say, ‘Me too.'”

Let’s remember to step outside our comfort zones and find each other* for a few moments of being in the company of writers.

**********
*Philadelphia area folks, consider attending this event Sunday, Nov 10: Dani Shapiro and Beth Kephart in conversation about “The Art of Writing the Personal.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

angel November 6, 2013 at 9:44 am

this just made me take a *deep* breath, and settle more fully into my Self. if i were to start quoting the bits that i *especially* loved, i’d basically be copying the entire thing back here again, so i won’t do that.

i will just say that this hit the spot. in the best ways possible. thanks for sharing it! <3

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Starla J. King November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am

Ah, Angel, thank you for reading with your whole Self. That weekend was like Cave Day at its finest 🙂

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