The first time I read Ezekiel 9 about the judgement over Jerusalem, my fingers shook. Six men came through the north facing gate, each with a weapon in his hand. A man with a writing kit was among them. They were each charged with bringing judgement.
God called the one with the writing kit to His side. He instructed him to mark the foreheads of those who lamented and grieved over the detestable things done to the city.
He then ordered the six men to kill everyone except those marked by the writer.
Whoa! Daing. God was serious. People were destroying the city and others were lamenting in pain over this destruction. He wasn’t taking it anymore.
Cause a ruckus, lose respect, get wiped out. Like that?
I used to think the ones with the most power were those charged with taking the lives of the people. Now, as a poet and working writer, I clearly see the power was held by the writer – the one asked to mark those who would remain untouched by death.
Writer, your words make a difference. Your job is the most important.
That’s a heavy call. The first thing we take to erase anyone’s history is their language. Then, it’s their books. I don’t need to remind you of this dark history.
In accordance with holding space and growing as a writer, I urge you to find community. Form a writers group! I’ve been a part of three groups, one of which I was only a participant, two of which I lead/facilitated.
Below are two things that worked and two things that didn’t.
- Writers know their purpose and their direction.
If you don’t know what you’re doing then neither does your reader. Joining a writers group just to eat MariaElena’s amazing batch of guacamole does not a writer make. Unless you’re inspired by guac. In which case, carry on.
When establishing rules of conduct, also establish purpose. Writing changes the world even if it’s fiction. Truth can be found in fiction because of who we become after having read it. 1984 anyone?
- Allow writers to be themselves.
This writers group will be the safest space for each writer. As well it should be. The most vulnerable pieces of ourselves are exposed when we wield pen and paper (or computer, laptop or tablet). You will get the side eye if your keyboard tapping becomes obnoxious. Just sayin’.
Try not to cause a ruckus. We all know what happens then…
What doesn’t work!
- Avoiding time limits.
A moment of silence please. Longer. Longer. Longerrrr. Don’t fall into this trap. Setting rules on time ensures everyone has an equal voice and is respectful of your time. I would love to talk all night (and I mean that) but I have kids to get home to, a husband to apprehend, and another journal to fill up!
- Standing at the pulpit.
When all the leader does is lead, she’s not free to participate. This is the point where she begins to suffer from burn out. Take turns wearing the leadership role or delegate tasks. One person chooses location, one person coordinates potluck, one person brings prompts, one person serves as peacekeeper. Every group needs one.
Everything else is cake. Gluten-free cake.
Do you have a successful writers group? What works? What doesn’t? I’d love to hear from you.
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