I have recently been invited to join a writing group. This is the only one I’ve participated in , so my experience is limited. We meet on Tuesday afternoons for an hour in the back corner of a chain bookstore. Everyone is friendly and chats with everyone else. There is always chocolate, and news regarding what the writers in the group are doing in the real world. Sometimes there are reviews in a newspaper or a newsletter from the bookstore where their book is carried, a connection that one of the writers makes with someone in film or TV or online. Invitations are shared to attend plays or poetry readings or author talks. After fifteen minutes of sharing, we get down to the ‘work’, or the ‘play’, depending on the writer’s view.
There are always two prompts, and if not many people show up, then there is a third idea to share. A set number of minutes is designated for writing, and then when ‘time’ is called, a volunteer reads what they’ve written, and we move around the table. The others listen attentively, and perhaps a comment is made. There isn’t any ‘critiquing’, as this is a group whose intention is to inspire people to write.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the handful of times I’ve attended these sessions for several reasons. It gets me away from my computer (and whatever blog, social media, or editing project I’m working on), I have the opportunity to meet other writers (and people in general), I am offered a chance to ‘play’ (perhaps what I write will be incorporated into something else, or not-I never ‘finish’ my story/essay/poem in the time alloted), and I get to build my confidence with public speaking (which is different from teaching in a classroom) by reading my own work. It is only an hour, and we stick to the time limit, so it eliminates excuses about not being able to attend because the group starts late or runs over. In my life, as I’m sure in yours, a time schedule is important in order to fit in everything that I think needs to be accomplished each day.
I’m wondering if there are perhaps other creativity groups. Where could a group of painters meet? A studio? Someone’s backyard? Why not provide ‘prompts’ for the paint? Pulling strips of paper out of a hat that suggest: a tree in spring, a tree in fall, a bee around a hive, a dog running through a field, a bird on a perch, a hawk in flight, a moored boat, a kayak in storage, or cupcakes. Again, the ideas of what to paint are endless. Set a time limit, perhaps thirty minutes, and share, if you choose to. Passing is always acceptable!
Perhaps combine an open mic with a jam session. A group of musicians circle around and someone calls out a key. Another one begins a rhythm. Where does the song go? Or, pick a key, and everyone gets a chance to play, for one minute, whatever comes out their fingertips or lips or hands.
When I was in high school, break dancing was popular. We used to have ‘dance offs’ during lunch. One student would ‘break’ for fifteen to thirty seconds, then step back as another would enter the circle and showed how their body moved to the music. No one got hurt, and there was only applause and encouragement. All of these are suggestions for creativity groups, which is not to be confused with critique groups.
There is a bed of psychology that has studied what happens when groups of humans are banded together over a similar interest. In the extreme, there are lynchings and violent protests. But on the other end of the spectrum there are peace marches and people who walk or run in charity events that raise enormous amounts of money for a cause. I haven’t researched it, but I wonder if any studies have been done regarding groups of artists. Do their combined ideas and energy take the individual to experiences that they could not have reached on their own? Does it heighten the artists communication with the muse? How long does the inspiration last? Would an artist come to believe that they could only create in the presence of the group?
Why not check it out for yourself? The local newspaper or Craig’s List may have announcements about groups that meet for a common interest. There is also the web sites for MeetUp. If there isn’t anything offered in your area, why not volunteer to start one? It can be simple, limited in participates and how often the group meets, or it can grow to include a pot luck, guest speakers, and meeting at different places. Extroverts will love the opportunity to chat with other artists, compare techniques, and discuss the influence of other creative people. Introverts, like myself, will have a chance to write in a different venue, and with prompts they may not be able to come up with on their own. We may make a friend or two, and we certainly get to see and hear what others are creating. Maybe our shyness fades as others laugh at our funny stories or smile warmly when it is our turn to read.
There are no rules (well, mostly) when it comes to creativity. An open mind and heart, a little encouragement from your muse, and some time to let it flow through you and shape whatever medium you decide is to receive your attention. I don’t always share my writings in the group, but I would love to share some others with you. I have short stories, poems, and the first few chapters from my novels on my web site www. myjoyenterprises.com If you start, or attend, a creativity group, leave a comment. I’d like to know how it is organized, and what you thought of the experience.