Let me add my voice to the chorus of people rightfully praising Amanda Gorman for her powerful poem at President Biden’s inauguration. Many elements of her story struck me, from her tackling a speech impediment to the graceful hand movements that accompanied her words.
Writing, something I once felt was ordinary, relegated to the sidelines so singing and dancing could shine, got its moment that day and I am here for it. In interviews Ms. Gorman spoke about WriteGirl and how it nurtured her gift. It made me reflect on how impactful a writing community has been in my own life.
In 2019, a colleague at work started a writing circle. By that time I had sporadically gone to other writing meetups in the U.S. and Tokyo. Scheduling conflicts prevented me from attending the writing circle meetings for months but I was finally able to attend one. It was the first time that I shared original writing with people who were not close to me. It filled me with anxiety to present my ideas before “real writers” who spent time reading books, writing regularly, things I “should” be doing. They asked thought-provoking questions that helped me to dig beyond the surface details and embrace that I was, in fact, trying to build a world with this story–what did I want it to look like? I needed to know the intimate details of it. It was a vulnerable moment, but I left feeling inspired and encouraged by what my colleagues had to say.
When 2020 started, I was determined to get more involved with the writing circle. Like almost everything else, the meetings went virtual. I was able to go to a majority of them, and I look forward to this year’s meetings. Here’s what I got out of the experience:
It made me a better writer. I had been struggling to get back into writing. Even writing one page was a struggle. In the first few writing circle meetings, my writing wasn’t particularly good but I shared anyway. Then there was a point when I hit my stride and really began to develop my brand of writing, the kind you can see in my Monthly Micros. The feedback I received also affirmed my growth, as my colleagues appreciated not only what was stated directly but also hinted at. Of course I didn’t always have a strong writing day: I remember one time I just drew a blank and didn’t share. But that time wasn’t a waste because I got to spend it listening to others, which brings me to my next point.
It exposed me to good writing. I got to enjoy what my colleagues came up with as well. Often we would choose the same prompts and I would observe how they handled them differently. Some readings had me bursting with laughter, while others left me in bewildered amazement. All interested me in different ways.
It became a space of refuge. In the background of these meetings was a rough year of teaching on Zoom during a pandemic. That 90 minutes a week became something we all very much looked forward to. We could forget about a looming deadline or an annoying thing a student did and just relax and write with our fellow writers. We could catch up and make jokes, and make connections between what we wrote and other things. And of course, we got to know each other better.
I felt we were all on the same level, that everyone’s contributions mattered. It wasn’t a test to see if I was a true writer or an imposter, but an opportunity to gather with others who valued writing as a form of creative expression.
This post is dedicated to my awesome writing circle colleagues, my writing community that nurtured me and helped me to own my identity as a writer. Thanks to them, I became excited about writing again and launched this blog to share my writing with all of you.