Groups change and evolve over time; new people join, others drop out. Even the people who initiate a group and stay steady in attendance over the course of several years grow and change; so naturally, any group evolves. I am a big advocate of change; I believe change is a good thing and that if you are resistant to change, you are, by default, advocating for the allowance of stagnation and ultimate death. I say this because I have to lay the premises of this blog post as one that embraces and welcomes change.
OK. That being said now, let’s talk specifically about changes within a writing group. Every aspect of an established writer’s group will and should change over time. Within the changes however, we have to find balance. It’s the old yin-yang philosophy. Whether you believe it or not, I have to tell you, it’s there. For every up there is a down; for every in there is an out. Ecclesiastes has a whole litany of the components that create balance:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Change is balanced by stability. What is the purpose of your writing group? What are the stable components of your mission statement? These are the things that must be adhered to in order to embrace change with integrity.
We talked about this in our journaling meeting this week and Linda prepared some notes that I’d like to share here:
· Keep the pen moving
· Go with the prompt given—even if you write “I don’t want to write about…” or you write the same word over and over—just write
· Don’t worry about the grammar, spelling, content—just keep you hand moving
· No comments after reading—no “Oh, that reminds me of…,” no, “Here’s what happened to me…”
· Comments, if any are limited to saying what words, lines or images stood out or remained in our minds—what you RECALL
If we are a sharing type group, as we are, we are a writer’s support group—not a therapy support group—we need to keep our boundaries clear.
We need members who are “willing to live within the “rules of order” that we have set up.
Schneider says, “…in moments of genuine crisis, be ready to abandon all rules” (p. 154). We have done this for almost everyone in the group at some point or another in times of crises. We have erred by not going back to our writing practice rules.
We are all accepted as we are—we still have a responsibility to monitor our comments when we know they may hurt others in the group.
If members are not interested in writing or sticking to this format, maybe you want to consider starting a Story Circle, a time when people just get together to share stories and talk. It would probably need to be a separate group, different meeting days—that would offer those who are more interested in sharing than in writing a chance to meet with friends.