Based on a simple yet extensive vision that seeks to integrate writing with life and life with writing, my husband Sam Beebe and I are forming a writing group. We intend to bring people together to share personal writing in the hopes of expanding individual and communal awareness and paving a way to creative and emotional fulfillment.
Our human days are full of fascinating thoughts and experiences to be grasped and developed, but more often than not, they are lost in the ether. There are so many contending influences and distractions that can get in the way of catching the fleeting — though potentially incendiary — sparks of our insight and imagination. Yet, jotting down a few words is all it takes to build a fire.
Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. Removing ourselves from the social stream to write requires a tiny wealth of intentionality and diligence. Life has become so fast-paced that we are liable to forget we can determine our own stride, and that sometimes pausing for reflection and true connection is infinitely more rewarding than chasing the crowd. We’re inclined to run after time as if it were a future destination, but it is the ground beneath our feet. Moments of introspection and communion might be the linchpins of our wellbeing. Isn’t the magic of human sentience contingent on the power of articulated perception and insight, on tidbits of idiosyncratic and accidental inspiration that help us make sense of our place in the world and our resonance with the whole? Writing allows us to awaken to ourselves and our surroundings, and to interpret our singular experience within this collective universe, opening the door to meaning. If we claim to be too busy to write, aren’t we also too busy to be present, to fully own life and understand its contours? What could be more important and rewarding? Why isn’t tuning in to our consciousness a priority?
When I succeed in putting down a few initial words, it makes me feel temporarily lighter and more substantial. But usually that is where the trail ends. I rarely pick it up again, because the joy of solitary transformation is limited. I believe in writing for writing’s sake and writing for myself, but it’s like a religion I can’t practice. There’s a host of reasons why I falter, the foremost of which, I suspect, is that writing — by and large — seeks to communicate with others. I’ve been in denial of this basic arrangement, insisting that I don’t need anyone to read my work. I still wince at the thought of somebody discovering my awkward traces — and yet I’ve come to recognize a paradox: I also wish I could share them.
Writing begins to breathe only once it returns from the solitude of our skulls to the tangled wilderness of external reality and is given a chance to stir and alter social consciousness, and, in turn, its author. For me, permanently hidden writing has the potential to become an isolating and self-extinguishing endeavor. As a perfectionist, I’ve strained to control every controllable facet of my projection, when what I crave most is to let my hair down and bring my stumbling process out into the open. That’s not to say that I’m throwing my concern for artful and ambitious composition to the wind — quite the opposite: it’s to venture that both expression and form need a lovingly-tended open space, a public garden, to flourish.
Writing carries weighty associations even before it materializes on the page. Some people don’t write unless they have to. Maybe you’re one of them. Then why the hell am I addressing you? … Because you might be like me. Language is a maze, but we are lost — and found — in it together. I recognize that writing is not necessarily everyone’s favored pathway to communion, yet I’m convinced there’s something good in it for most of us.
Might it not be possible to divest Writing (with a capital W) of the grander or prescriptive associations that sometimes keep us at bay, and reclaim it as an accessible mode of personal expression, a free platform for communication and connection? I’m talking about everyday art, where form is not governed by conventions and expectations, but by you, its creator; where content doesn’t play to other people’s interests, but to your own; where style is a flexible skin rather than a required costume.
This writing group is born of my own desire to share and discuss personal writing that transcends, but is inclusive of, traditional genres. I long for real human interaction, face-to-face and heart-to-heart, rather than virtual relationships — an important distinction that sets our project apart from internet forums and blogs. I am calling for an ethic that supports and celebrates writing which is not necessarily geared toward publication, and refuses to be governed by the rigorous and dehumanizing standards of competitive enterprises. Our mission is to honor and cultivate the gift of expression, not to judge and label it. We will write for the purpose of evolving rather than impressing. We hope that the individual and communal process will lead to a greater sense of presence, understanding, and fulfillment. The motivation is to expand our awareness and connect with those around us. We’ll celebrate the art of form in-the-making and try to shake off the restrictions of an impossible perfectionism. We are going to re-appropriate writing as the imperfect, beautiful, and egalitarian vehicle for thought that it is.
Our group will gather regularly in our apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for an unpretentious, pressure-free writing exchange. We’ll have a new theme for every meeting and provide optional prompts for those who want them. Responses can take any shape or form whatsoever, while the common theme will help bind the conversation and keep us on the same page. Themes might look something like this: vanity; family; being alone; ecstasy; heartache; hierarchies; money; distraction; escape; control; loss; oppression; transformation; and so on. Each of us will do some writing on the theme and bring whatever we’d like to share to the gathering. Anyone can share all, some, or none of what they’ve written.
Thank you for dipping your toes in our project. Here we go, with love and courage!