writing circle

you were a writer
you ever
pen to paper.
just because you were not writing
does not mean you were not writing
— Nayyirah Waheed

writing circle

The most true fact of my life: writing saved me.

I have dozens of black Moleskine journals, lined up all pretty on a shelf, filled with love and loss and grief and fear and ohgod the kinds of sorrow you just can't dig out of. Until you can. Until one day you realize, fuck, you just wrote your way out. You look around, you're squinting because there's suddenly so much light, and look, over there: the tops of winter trees nuzzling the bottom of the sky. Blue sky and birdsong and an open door. A bit of hope.

write about getting out.
Seven minutes.

You're back.

And there are pages and pages of proof: you're here. You were one thing, and now you're another thing. You were there and now you're here. And look, over there: a ladder, a bowl, a dream you had about swimming. Write about a ladder, a bowl, a dream you had about swimming. And now there's sunlight on your skin. Keep writing. Don't stop.

Sitting in a circle of writers week after week, year after year, getting messy with each other's stories, saved me. Writing down my broken heart saved me. Listening to her read about her mother, and him about his love, and them about their deepest fucking desire, saved me. Writing saves me. Believe me.
Believe me.

When I lose my circle, I am lost. 

Writing circle is where I belong, I tell you. And there's a seat right here to my left. I think it's yours.

There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.
— Arundhati Roy

Let's write together.

Let's come together to hold the space we need to take risks with our stories and our big, messy hearts.

Let's write down the things, again and again and again, and then let's share them with each other. Right then and there. Let's treat our writing like brand-new, fresh-birthed infants. Vulnerable and precious and the most ugly-beautiful things you've ever seen. Let's practice this radical vulnerability and WRITE IT OUT. 

Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living, I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure thing I know to touch the heart and change the world.
— Dorothy Allison

Write about something
ugly and make it beautiful.
Twelve minutes.

I will bring the prompts and guidelines to create a brave, inspired, and nurturing space, and these foundational ideas:

  • A writer is someone who writes. (You! That's you, scribbling on your napkin or in your dream journal, typing late into the night, talking it into your phone when you can't find any paper or your eyes or hands are tired. It's you.)

  • Writing belongs to all people. Writing Circle elevates the voices of the queer, the marginalized, the wounded, the deliberately and systemically oppressed, the folks who have been told their stories don't matter.

  • Exploring new ways to tell the stories can change EVERYTHING. Audre Lorde said, I am deliberate and afraid of nothing. Writing Circle is an intentionally courageous space that makes room for fear and discomfort so we might learn to use them as the powerful tools they are. This is life-giving, life sustaining, life-changing. Your courage elevates the lives around you, including your own.

Writing Circle celebrates courage.

We were each born a creative genius. Fact.
— Nkechi Njaka

Although Writing Circle is not specifically therapy-focused, the process of writing itself is often therapeutic. The deep listening we offer each other can be transformative. And the practice of allowing ourselves to be heard can tend to deep wounds. We will care for each other's well-being with kindness, compassion, and civility, while encouraging risk-taking, vulnerability, and courage.

Each Circle begins with a simple meditation and an offering of words, art, or music to guide the session’s generative process and ground us into our time together. I will suggest a series of prompts which will lead to in-group free-writes, lasting two- to twenty minutes. We'll all write together. We'll keep our pens moving, our keys clicking. We'll practice writing without pause or criticism. You will be invited to share your work with the group, with the understanding that all writing will be treated as fiction, and will be deeply honored for taking its first breaths into our shared world.

At no point will Writing Circle engage in a critiquing process, though writers are encouraged to revise and revisit writing done together.

Stories heal us because we become whole through them.
In the process of writing, of discovering our story, we restore those parts of ourselves
that have been scattered, hidden, suppressed, denied, distorted, forbidden,
and we come to understand that stories heal.
— Deena Metzger
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from writing circles past:

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Prompt: what I mean to say is...

Each prompt brought me deeper into my creative body and each share session brought me closer to the kind of listener I want to be.
— Circle Writer
The light and windows and common agreements of respect and sincerity about our writings enabled honest writing and open sharing.
— Circle Writer
What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
— Adrienne Rich
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I learned just HOW beautiful vulnerability can be. I mean, I was fan to begin with, but I learned how close humans can feel through open-hearted vulnerability. I learned that a writer is someone who writes. There is no right or wrong way, just the heart’s way. It’s an empowering thing as an aspiring writer to hear from a great mentor.
— Circle Writer
I can write about things I need to. I can write for minutes and minutes I can write about things that scare me.
— Circle Writer
What we were writing sometimes (most of the time) carried great amounts of emotion. Yet, not once did I feel unsafe or judged to share. That’s impressive. There was chocolate and tissues and soulcards and everything warm and comforting, gentle and kind.
— Circle Writer

about favor the writer:

I published my first story in fourth grade. It was called "Sly Fox" and it was all about being lost in the wilderness and making connection with a creature who wanted to be loved. I wrote poems all through my growing-up years and a novella when I was 22. It was also about being lost in the wilderness and making connections with creatures who wanted to be loved. I have a graduate degree in Transformative Language Arts, and I wrote a biomythography (please, if you haven't read Audre Lorde, who was the first I know of to use that beautiful word, please let her into your life now) called stone unseen. You can read parts of it here. I've been leading and participating in Writing Circles for twenty years, and for the past few years, I've taught a Circle-style class called Writing For Your Life (deepest gratitude to Deena Metzger, for the book of the same title, which literally changed everything for me).  I've been published a few times, and translated into Spanish once. I do like it when my writing resonates with people, but these days, for now,  writing feels more like tender communications with my own deepest self, and I'm so interested in hearing what she has to tell me. These days I just want to write with you, and with all of our deepest selves, all the time.

Favor cultivates a presence of creative possibility. That was my favorite part of working with her. She tends a fire for the wayward possibilities that may just be your true desire or true feeling. She invites you to sit for a spell and see what emerges. She models acceptance of the complete experience and is masterful at creating safe spaces where people can allow their complete self to participate.
— Beth
I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter until they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. Then you will see what medicines they make, and where and when to apply them.
That is the work. The only work.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

writing circle agreements

To maintain a safe, confidential space in which to write, we follow certain practices in responding to new writing:

  • We honor the writer by listening carefully
  • We experience and treat everything as fiction
  • We refer to the narrator / speaker, not to the author, as the voice of the piece
  • We maintain confidentiality, and do not speak of others’ writings outside the group unless the writer of a piece begins the conversation
  • We remember, while healing often occurs, this is not a therapy group
  • We are invited to read our work
  • We respond only with what we like, what stays with us, what moves us – and not with how to make it stronger (new writing which has not been edited is like a baby: it’s vulnerable and easily damaged by negative judgments)
  • We do not need to respond to every piece
  • We stick to the writing, avoiding our own anecdotes and asides
  • As writers, we listen to the responses to our work and do not comment – we don’t want to influence how people respond to our work
In order to change what is, we need to give speech to what has been, to imagine what might be.
-Adrienne Rich