This week I’m working on three different writing workshops—two in person, and one on Zoom—and they are each a joy. Sharing the experience of reflective writing with a group of people feels almost sacramental to me these days. Maybe that’s because I’m not currently serving a church—these gatherings of writers are my ministry, right now.
When I’ve shared a prompt, and the writers bend over their journals, scritch-scratching away, something changes in the room. And in me. It reminds me of the moments in worship when I got to take water and pour it on a fuzzy wet head of a child of God. Or when I broke a loaf of bread and handed a piece to someone hungry for grace.
I don’t intend to say anything theologically heretical here—I’m making a creative analogy about ordinary things and holy things and the presence of something bigger than us being among us when we gather together. I guess what I mean is I feel privileged to be in the room when others experience the way writing can bring us right up close to the truth of love.
Something holy happens when we write together, and then share our words with others who are listening generously. We take ordinary elements—a pen, paper, and something simple to help us get started—and then we invite what matters to meet us on the page.
Sometimes we ramble around and seem to go nowhere special. Sometimes we write and write and it’s only at the very end that we say something we really needed to say. Sometimes, in just a few words, we go straight to the heart of it all.
Thanks to those of you reading this who are writing with me in workshops this week. Your words are gifts.
a writing prompt
Here’s one example of writing that goes straight to the truth in just a few words. I plan to use it in a workshop on writing through grief coming up later this spring.
This poem is for any of us separated from someone we love. It works if our loss or grief is fresh and raw, or an old companion. It also has an image of ordinary objects that might spark something in our memory or imagination. Use these words from the poet W.S. Merwin as a starting place for you to come close to something true on the page today.
Separation—by W.S. Merwin
Your absence has gone through me Like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.
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"to be in the room when others experience the way writing can bring us right up close to the truth of love." This is beautiful. Thank you, Julie
Julie, both the Merwin prompt and your description of what happens in communal writing feel completely Spirit-infused to me. I've felt that sacred stir when writing with others, with physically together or online--and it's truly holy. Thank you so much for describing what "writing in company" can be!