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One (More) Reason I Like Writing Groups and Writing Workshops

Posted on May 27, 2007 by

Because, sometimes, the written word is heard—and respected—in a different way than ordinary spoken language. I saw this regularly at the shelters when I taught writing workshops there. The men and women would come into the room for a workshop, sometimes pushing, teasing each other, heckling, some of it good-natured, some less so, and then everyone would find a place around the table. We’d talk a bit. Then I’d write an idea up on the board—a word or a phrase to spark the writing. The writing would begin. The room would quiet. And after those first several minutes of writing, when people were talking about the writing, or reading their writing aloud, there would be this different quality of attention in the room.

A woman would read a poem.

A man would read a paragraph.

“That was all right,” someone would say.

“I hear you,” someone would say.

The written word, and the sharing of the written word, was almost universally respected in that room. I never had to give instruction in this, or remind people of this. It just happened.

And when people knew that their words were going to be respected, then sometimes—not all the time—but sometimes—it was as if a new context had been created—and, into this new context, something new—some new piece of conversation—–could emerge—