This fall I took a writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard with the legendary, Nancy Aronie, who I have deemed a “Literary Guru”. As a writing teacher she moves fluidly, dancing gracefully through her life, sorrows, pain, and joy in such a way that it invites and inspires her writers to do the same. Nancy has the uncanny ability to create the space that allows each writer to submerge themselves in their memories, dreams, disillusionment, and prayers to evoke words, prose, and stories that made me weep, laugh, and applaud with astonishment and joy. Nancy creates a safe place for each writer to slowly shed their cocoon and emerge into the brightly beautiful butterflies we are constantly struggling to become. She allows us to become the writers we have each longed to become. Every day each person was required to write from one of Nancy’s daily prompts and no one disappointed, although collectively we bemoaned, “what would we say? Could we even write about ‘that’?” “Am I even doing this right?”.
These amazing writers showed up with their humor, their heartbreak, their tragedies and they wove a web of stories that enthralled and entranced everyone within earshot. As the rain steadily pounded the studio’s windows, these unique voices, shared their eloquent prose, poetry and purpose. They told stories that made me feel honored to have sat among the last vestiges of fall’s, leaf-colored, canopy, in the in bleak ending of November and weep with unabashed abandonment. Tissues were quietly passed from person to person as we heard stories of suffering, and so much sadness that people have endured in their lives and have lived to tell about it. Each testimonial and written word was as individual as the writer but the collective experience of being human beings trying to navigate the morass of our own childhoods, teenage angst, and adult lives made me long to comfort them in some way. The best thing I could do was to sit silently, breathe deeply and bear witness to their incredible stories and then applaud like I was at a rock concert when they were finished.
You could hear a pin drop as each one of us were preparing to read our words, tell our stories and share our hopes and dreams and often revisit the very pain that had brought us there. Each voice was as distinctive as the writer. There was a richness, a catch in their throat honesty and the willingness to endure, that allowed us to be swept away into their worlds and into their shared moments of dreams, triumphs, successes and sorrow. At the beginning of each class I was sure that we had heard the best writing and then I would be lulled, lead, and laden anew with fresh tears as even deeper stories emerged and these brave souls bared their spirits and shared their lives with such courage, writers who were strangers to me no more.
All writers were funny, raw, theatrical, heartsick, loving, imaginative, vulnerable and unflinchingly truth tellers who sat in a sacred circle and bared their underbellies for the rest of us to see. What I heard was a cacophony of vibrant voices, experiences, and writing styles, but these were WRITERS, true artists. No one else could have told their stories and shared them with 23 strangers with such rawness, profound honesty, honor and grace. Each voice, each piece was an expression of what that writer brought to the group and it could not be duplicated by anyone else. That is what being a writer is about, I suppose. Telling a story that only you know the intimate details of and making us see, feel, and step back into the piece with the same clarity and tangible, tactile feelings that the writer sees in their mind’s eye. It is the ability to draw other people along, to envision your steps, your views and your emotions that makes someone a talented writer and an artist.
As I sat listening, laughing, and languishing in empathy, sympathy, and pain, I realized, this is writing. Each person is responsible for telling their story, their way, with no apologies. Each writer’s words and voice lent itself to the story being told and on some days I wondered how it is that we have all survived. If you’re a writer, you put the pain, sorrow, and longing on the page and you tell your story because invariably the other people reading or listening are sharing in the triumphs and losses, just as your exquisitely chosen words intended to convey. It’s like writing music, the tempo, the melody and the visionary, inextricable placement of each word delivers the listener to another world, another layer, where you are the star and we are the audience, there unseen, unknowing, and unaware of where this beautiful song will lead.
I have been changed by this class and as my favorite quote reminds me, “When I move, Providence moves with me.” Stay tuned as I write about the other revelations that have emerged from this one simple act of stepping out on faith. It turns out, getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, and standing in the presence of greatness allowed me to find a bit of my own greatness amidst the crowd of writers that I now call friends.
#writers, #gratitude #inspiring