I have always enjoyed writing, although I never really took it seriously.
I was, however, terrible at keeping journals as a child, and probably started half a dozen diaries that were abandoned after two or three entries. I even tried the Anne Frank-esque tactic of pretending I was writing to a long lost friend, but that didn’t work either. It wasn’t until I started traveling as an undergraduate that I began documenting my experiences in these long involved emails to friends and family back home. I actively rebelled against my professors, who insisted that I keep journals for my overseas classes, but those weekly emails home became a serious undertaking (although at first much more like long excited rambles), and I would eventually alter many of my emails into academic entries after the fact.
Over time, my emails grew stronger and tighter, more thought was put into details and descriptions, and more research was put into explanations of things. After two semesters of emails from abroad, I enrolled in an intro to non-fiction writing seminar for tips on how to develop my scenes, and hook my audience. I wouldn’t say that my emails were publishable (not even remotely), but I started getting requests from others to be put on the mailing list for future emails. I printed most of what I wrote, and pasted them into composition notebooks for reference.
I didn’t think about it at the time, but those emails became really important to me as a way to remember all the details and relive the experience (I’d often go back and re-read, even while still abroad, to remember something specific, and today these notebooks and ticket stubs are invaluable for details as back story), it was a way for me to process the new things I was learning, and through contextualizing my experiences for others, I was more deeply understanding what was happening to and around me.
Then for a few years I stopped writing, and I felt this tension building up in me. I had these experiences and thoughts I wanted to share, but I didn’t know where.
Enter the blogging world.
And after half a year of blogging, and getting into the routine of writing, I wanted to again hone my skill. So in January of 2010 I joined a local writer’s group. I’ve been attending the monthly meetings ever since.
My blog posts are pretty colloquial, and I’m sure riddled with mistakes (grammatical and otherwise), but again through writing I’ve begun to analyze and understand my experiences on a deeper level, and I have learned a lot through reading the thoughts of others. Likewise the writer’s group has made me slow down as a writer, and think about what the reader is seeing and feeling, how the reader interacts with what I write.
Needless to say, I love writer’s group. Last night we had a great meet up. Many of the regulars were there, along with quite a few new people. We generally meet at the local library for about two hours. The month before a meeting, two to three volunteers agree to post their polished pieces to a website where members download and comment on their work. At the meeting each person has three minutes to critique for each writer’s piece and the writer is not allowed to say anything—no debates, explanations, defending, nothing (the “glass box” theory of critiquing). They can only take note (or not) of comments from each person.
After the more formal meeting a group goes out to a local Chinese food restaurant for tea, beer, dinner, snacks, etc and socialize, talk about their projects, hear crazy stories. Last night we had a big group at the restaurant, and it was one of the most enjoyable writer’s groups to date. Everyone is different–professions, upbringings, interests, what they like to write. Most are American, which is good for me– I need to get out of my international/intercultural comfort zone every now and then. Being in the company of other budding writer’s inspires me to keep writing, try harder, and to think about different techniques and approaches.
I’m not sure if my writing will ever really go anywhere. It is more of a hobby and an outlet than anything else. But between the energy, encouragement and tips of the writer’s group and stories like blogger Sharell at Diary of a White Indian Housewife, who recently wrote a memoir of her move from Australia to India and her new life in Mumbai that is due to be published later this year, I can’t help but feel inspired.