I am sometimes asked what am I doing with the writing community and the writing sessions, reader events and courses we run. I am asked about the viability of this, about the business model, and plans for the future. A very popular and gifted writer who held a session with us left me
speechless when she asked me, ‘Why work so hard, make all the effort?’ When I take such questions seriously, I falter with my replies. I wonder if I can come up with a good enough reason to stay the course.
I sometimes also feel like a pretender and wonder about the point of any of this, given how wary and shy I am about putting my own work in the public domain. Then there are days like yesterday, that shine a light so clear that all doubts and questions turn transparent vapour.
The last session of our short summer writing course stretches late into the night. There is a festive, celebratory mood as one of the participants has arrived at a professional and personal milestone. She has brought wine and chocolate to share. Another participant has got us cupcakes. Someone has brought their child along, as there was no babysitter available. My pet dog is a good babysitter, we discover. I bring out a basket of celebratory chocolates as well, as there is a personal milestone in my family too.
After everyone leaves, I look back at the four weeks that have gone by, when stories have emerged from almost nothing into lifetimes of yearning, homecoming, loving and losing. Where I have seen someone move from not writing a full page to seeing stories in every moment and everything. I see the difference it makes when someone recognises the story they want to tell, and have had in them for ever, but had always ignored. I see what happens when we allow each other permission to own our stories and our life experiences, and our dreams and flights of imagination. I see us all hold space for each other, so that our words do not falter, and our sentences stay together.
And even though I don’t always find clear answers, for why and how this group makes sense, or the nature of my work, or what it adds up to in the bigger scheme of things, I feel the questions change. I sense dreams waiting to step into the world, eager to be shaped in new forms. I feel the power of speaking up, of writing things out, of sitting back and hearing a story read out loud. I share the lightness which comes when the unsaid and the unheard no longer weighs down your blood and bones. I feel the strength in bonds of friendship and in our coming together in vulnerability and trust. I fall in love once more, and I know love takes work.