I’ve been writing since I was seven and publishing since my twenties. During that time I’ve taken numerous workshops on how to write query letters and proposals, short stories and novels. I did so to learn more about my craft. I’d never taken one to learn more about myself. That changed three weeks ago.
I was at my computer, fingers scrambling to make yet another deadline, when a line came to me, a lovely, magical string of words. As soon as I jotted it down, another line came, then another, and another until I had the makings of a poem. It was one of the best things I had written in years. How curious then that it should have taken the shape of a poem. I hadn’t written one since college, some 20 years ago.
I kept thinking about the poem, that night and the next day, and I had to laugh when I opened my mailbox to find a brochure for a weekend workshop in—what else?—poetry.
Days before, I would’ve tossed the announcement; instead I read through it and wavered.
You’re not a poet, I told myself. And you’re not comfortable with strangers, let alone with the same group for three days. What if you don’t like them or their work or vice versa (as impossible as the latter seemed)? What if the workshop leader didn’t know what he was talking about, or talked in such a way that you had to slap yourself awake? What if, what if, what if?
Still, I kept looking through the brochure. Finally, I signed up.
It was better than I would have dared expect. I was surprised, relieved and delighted.
The workshop leader had such a gentle touch. He took us by the hand and heart and had us write without worrying about form or marketability. He only wanted us to get at our truth, be it through a thought, memory or emotion. It was from there that our best, most honest writing would emerge, he told us. And so it was.
I spent three days writing. Even when I went walking or was eating, I was writing. My words were soul food, allowing me to slow down and open up. And just relax.
I drove home reluctantly at the end of the weekend, thinking of the people I met and the poems they had penned. And I thought of the poems I, too, had shared. How out of character it seemed to reveal myself so easily. How wonderful it felt.
Pulling into my driveway, just a few feet away from the chaos of my everyday life, I realized I didn’t need to attend workshops anymore. All I needed were me-shops—special times and places that allowed me to hear that distant voice that whispers: Breathe deeply, write deeply. Live.