Group Therapy: That’s Some Sweetness for Sure

Post Date: October 2nd, 2010

There’s the beauty of solitary, silent writing time, when all you can hear are the voices of your created characters living out their lives. Then there’s the beauty of communal conversation about writing, encouraging and insightful words exchanged with peers who struggle with similar demons, drama, and fears about whether those voices are valid.

Yesterday my writing group was a fabulous, proverbial “shot in the arm” that this writer needed. I’ve been working, yes, but not creating. I’m querying, marketing, mailing, and prepping this or that, humming round the edges of my writing, but turning from the newly-minted page or even from minting. I thought maybe I just needed to bear down and work harder in order to cough something up, but nothing’s emerged, particularly the motivation needed to do so. I felt, as they say, “dry as a bone.”

Then I found sustenance and drink in my group. It got me to thinking about what makes magic in a writing community and why we need one.

The peers: may yours be like mine. Serious writers, all of them, intent on grappling with craft and getting it right. All of them write for various audiences, whether academic, spiritual, or athletic, and so they appreciate the power of each noun, verb, and adjective.

Also they are serious encouragers. We don’t do deep critiques at this stage, though maybe someday we will, letting one person’s draft be the focus of an entire meeting. Right now we listen carefully and support one another. The most important foundation that must exist prior to critique is built on this kind of trust and appreciation. There’s no competition, there’s no fear of others’ success, nor is there any scarcity model that there’s only so much room for so much writing. Everyone’s on board to express themselves as honestly as possible and as effectively as possible in their writing and to make sure that everyone else does as well. Integrity of theme, integrity of phrasing, integrity of sequence matter deeply to all of us.

Thank you Laurie, Katie, Beverly, Marcia, and Susan. You smooth the path for me to return to the interior life, the solo hike, and come back not so thirsty and confused.

Writing Prompts: Please note that writing prompts should always be pursued in emotionally-safe environments with the supervision of someone who interested in encouraging good writing, self-awareness, and reflection. A wonderful resource is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.

© Lyn Hawks. Writing prompts for one-time classroom use only and not for publication in any form elsewhere without permission of this author.

Elementary: Me and Everybody Else

1. Do you like working in a group? Playing in a group? Why?
2. What are bad things that happen when people are in groups? Good things? Explain why you think these things happen when people get together.
3. Describe a story you have read where something happens when a group of people get together. What happens? Is it good or bad? Why? What advice would you have for each member of the group?
4. Imagine that you can create any kind of group for any kind of reason. What group will you create and invite others to join? What will this group do?
5. Do you like to be the leader of a game or the follower? Why? If you could make up any game, what roles would there be? What role would you play?
6. Have you ever shared your writing with a large group? What happened? What did people tell you about your writing? How did you feel afterwards?

Secondary and Adult: Groups, Mobs, and More

1. Do you like working in a group? Playing in a group? Why?
2. Think about the pros and cons of people forming groups and list good and bad things that occur when people band together. What causes the best and worst of human behavior when in a group?
3. What stories and novels have you read that illustrate the best and worst of group behavior? Think of To Kill a Mockingbird, “The Lottery,” Julius Caesar, “The Destructors,” Lord of the Flies, Things Fall Apart, and other tales of people in groups, communities, or mobs. What happens? How would you evaluate the outcome of this group action? What advice would you have for each member of the group?
4. How do individuals rise above the actions of a group? Think of examples from your own life and from literature.
5. Imagine that you can create any kind of group for any kind of reason. What group will you create and invite others to join? What will this group do? Will you lead or follow? Why?
6. Are you a leader or a follower?
7. Have you ever shared your writing with a large group? What happened? What did people tell you about your writing? How did you feel afterwards?

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