In the Spring of 2011 Ruth Folit invited me to do something I had never done before: lead an online writing practice group. Ruth is the designer/producer of LifeJournal, journal software and the founder/director of the International Association for Journal Writing. Our writing practice sessions aren’t really “online,” they’re more “live chat” with participants from across the country and anywhere in the world connecting via phone or Skype. Following is a blog Ruth posted at IAJW‘s site, which she graciously allowed me to repost as a guest blog.
Online Writing Practice—Growing the Writer Within
A couple of days ago was the first of a handful of Wednesdays with Judy Reeves in what’s known as an Online Writing Practice. It’s an hour of time spent, mid-day, with a writers of any shape, size, age, gender, or level of experience.
I can imagine that the process does sound odd—people on the phone writing separately, yet together, in response to a prompt that Judy, the engaging writing provocateur, proffers.
It never ceases to surprise me that this is a powerful hour. It defies logic. Why should writing for a set time, with other writers, also scribbling or typing on the other side of continent be any different than me taking the time to write alone? Sounds kinda, er…dumb. (Sorry, Judy.)
But the reality is just the opposite. It’s sometimes magical.
What can make it so compelling? I don’t self identify as a writer. I know, as the founder/director of the International Association for Journal Writing, that’s quite an admission. I certainly consider myself a journal writer. But a writer? I’m not sure, really. I do write—newsletters, emails, articles about journaling, blurbs for classes or telechats. But a writer? It’s honestly not among my characteristics that I would list, if asked.
Candidly, if I didn’t have the role of doing the tech stuff (setting up and overseeing the conference call), I would NEVER have signed up for this. Like many, I’m intimidated by the idea of reading my writing to a group. Writing can be scary. Who knows what will come out my hands spontaneously? But it was in my self-defined job description, so I forced myself to do it and participated thanks to Judy’s welcoming style.
But the astonishing thing about it is this: The hour that I’m with Judy and the others, I put my writer hat on. Or I think this is more accurate: During the last half-dozen Online Writing Practices, I’ve started manufacturing my writer hat, unbeknownst to me. And now after returning from the summer recess—I’ve found that even during the fallow online writing practice summer months—that hat has been quietly growing in my writer hatbox. Without me doing anything special and without me being aware of it.
I’ve learned the merit of these time-out-of-time one-hour sessions together. I’ve never met Judy or Tammy or Sue or Ray or Mary in person. But I appreciate them and enjoy our hours together. Our online writing practice sessions are usually quite real—although not forced. I hear and read some wild and powerfully evocative writing, and I hear and read some ho-hum, even sort of boring stuff. Amazingly, just by my listening without judgment and without concurrently trying to formulate a response (remember there’s no commenting on or critiquing) to the readers, I’ve learned almost by osmosis something about writing.
When you listen with an open, non-judgmental ear and have others quietly listen to your reading with open and non-judgmental ears, the writer within—even the most tentative of writers like me—grows.
Please join us for our next Online Writing Practice session, right from your home or office or writing practice place. Or tell us about your writing practice experience. Did you think it “sounded kinda dumb” when you first tried? Have you filled dozens of notebooks with your writing practice? Never tried it?