While in Melbourne, I dropped in for a writer’s group session with Writer’s Nest; a small group of writers who meet each Saturday.
Normally they meet at the Victorian Writer’s Centre, but a change of venue landed us on the 50th floor of Melbourne Central Tower with a view of the city.
Writer’s Nest has been running since August 2010. Their weekly writing session is run by a different member each week. The format of each writing session is primarily writing excercises followed by workshopping a longer piece which a member has brought in. The workshopping of a longer piece of writing was absent on this occasion.
We started off with the group leader for the session introducing a writing prompt which had been inspired by his reading of a biography of Sigmund Freud, realting to the relation between what Freud called the id and the ego (the unexamined/unconscious aspect of a mind and the consciously examined aspect of a mind). We had a specified time limit to write whatever came to mind using that prompt however we liked as a starting point. The various members of the group each came up with different short piece of writing, we read them out in turn and commented on our impressions of what one another had written.
My effort focused on the relationship bewteen a character called Jacqui, who has trouble consciously examining her thoughts and actions, and her friend who is quite willing to offer her own assessment:
The point of the exercises is not necessarily to produce a very short self-contained story but to take an idea on the spot and just write whatever, hopefully sparking the beginning of an idea you can follow up on later and either build into a longer story or incorporate into an existing piece you’re working on. Even if what you produce from a particular writng exercise does not spark a new story or fit into one you’re currently working on, the common starting point of the prompt encourages a themed discussion about similarities and differences in approaching a particular idea or theme.
Jacqui wandered in from the patio, where her pacing had taken her, a frown dulling her usually bright disposition.
‘It’s just… she’s been my friend for eight years.’
At twenty two, and having moved six times in as many years, Jacqui couldn’t say that about many people.
‘She stole your boyfriend,’ Emma said deadpan, her tone suggesting that should be the end of the conversation.’
‘It’s not as simple as that. I…’ Jacqui trailed off, sipping from her coffee.
‘Yeah; it is,’ Emma corrected.
‘She didn’t mean to-‘ Jacqui searched for the right words.
‘What…? Betray you? Lie to you?’
‘But she’s a nice person.’
‘Nice people don’t do that.’
This went on for twenty more minutes before Emma had to pick up the kids. Emma liked Jacqui but she just knew that before they next met Jacqui will have spoken to either John or Kara, minus the outrage she should rightfully feel, and it broke her heart.
Following this first writing exercise, there was another one in which each writer was presented with a Michael Leunig cartoon, about unravelling your mind and using it as a path to walk on, and given the task of writing how we feel at that point in our life (but not to be read to the group). This was intended as a way for each person to ‘unravel our mind’, ready to plan where we would go from there with our writing in the final exercise, which was to write about how we would take something positive from the experience of the first writing exercise (anything from our own writing, other members’ writing and our discussion) and put it to use in a specific piece of writing.
This is the first in what will be a number of articles each looking at a writer’s group and what they do. If you would like to express interest in your writer’s group getting a visit, email details of when and where you meet to email@example.com.
The Australian Literature Review