Writing, by its nature, can be a pretty insular experience. While the final product is shared with others, the process of creation is an individual labour (of love, but hard work nonetheless). For me, the challenge is further heightened by a somewhat (who am I kidding, a fully developed) perfectionist approach to the task. One of the reasons I chose to write via a weekly blog format was because of my tendency to ruminate over my writing, resulting in lots of revisions, but very limited actual output. Being committed to writing and sending out a weekly blog means letting go of my obsessive editing in favour of regularly pressing the publish button. Now more than half way through my 50 Feats, I am much less critical of my work. Where I would have obsessed about typos and other missteps in the past, I can now gratefully accept the occasional email from a friendly reader pointing out a small “oops,” edit and update, and…let it go.
My feelings of creative isolation are somewhat mitigated by reader feedback, but I was excited to come across a notice on the Niagara Falls library website advertising a Writers’ Circle. My next fabulous feat was immediately confirmed.
Even though I have lived in Niagara Falls for over 25 years, I can count on my one hand the number of times I have visited the Victoria Avenue library site. I think my older son had a piano recital in one of the community rooms when he was in grade school. I may have accompanied my younger son to a March Break program when he was small. I have a long expired library card from those days. So, when I walked into the library on the night of the meeting I was impressed by the warm and comfortable atmosphere.
I walked through the various sections looking for the Rosberg Gallery. In my brief travels I saw a familiar face, someone I knew who also struggled with mental health challenges. It had been over a year since we had last crossed paths, and I was so happy to see a big smile spread across his face as he recognized me. He told me he was doing well, involved with a few different projects and loving the experiences. Although our conversation was brief (we both were attending meetings) I was buoyed by another example of a kind and generous soul who had found his way through dark times and learned to live well with mental illness.
I found the little gallery room and joined two other women already seated in chairs that formed part of a circle. I was confident that I was in the right place but confirmed by asking them. After we introduced ourselves, I settled in and glanced around the room at the sketches and paintings on the wall; there were barns and train stations illustrated in charcoal and watercolour displaying varying degrees of experience. Each, however, was displayed without differentiation, respecting talent and the courage to try in equal measures. I really liked this place.
In the next few minutes, several more participants arrived, along with the library group leader. I discovered that the participants had been meeting together on a monthly basis since the previous Fall when the circle began. A more diverse group I could not have imagined: one woman told me she was 89 years old; a man introduced himself as a retired engineer; another woman tentatively told me she was still new to writing, displaying her handwritten pages; a 30-something man greeted the others and settled his iPad on his lap in anticipation; a mother and daughter team rounded out the circle.
Our library leader explained the meeting process for me: each person who wished to receive feedback would read something she or he had written for the group. Some people were writing novels, others poetry, still others wrote passages based upon a topic provided each month as inspiration.
The readings were as varied as the group itself. Participants shared philosophical dialogues, poetry about Zambonis and cats, a children’s adventure story, and the beginnings of a historical novel. Just like the artwork on the walls, some of the writing was stronger than others; again, I respected their courage in opening up such personal creations to the world.
When my turn came up, I was nervous. I had the option of listening without sharing, but I felt the need to reciprocate the trust in the room. I explained my premise for 50 Fabulous Feats, and read the first blog feat for the group. When I looked up at the end of my reading, I was greeted with a circle of smiles and encouraging nods. It felt good to have the affirmation of fellow writers.
The hour and a half passed by incredibly quickly. On our way out, I walked with the mother and daughter duo who both said that they hoped to see me again next month. I look forward to it.
Next up: Niagara Counts!