Shortly after moving here a little over a year ago, I was introduced to The Cambria Writers Workshop. The group’s emphasis is to help refine a writer’s words prior to the fruition of publication. Founded over 30 years ago by Helen Papashvily, a best-selling author, it is one of the oldest such workshops in California.
Membership peaked in 1994 with 30 on the roster; there are currently 23.
Following are some of my personal reflections on life, and how this amazing assembly of writers helps me improve the efficacy of my written words, as they relate to my feelings. They have taught me that what you say, think, and feel, matter.
What I learned about Writers Workshop Wednesdays
When does what we carry in our hearts get to be more that we can bear? How many times do we hear, “If you fall down, get up, dust yourself off, move on”? How many falls are too many? Is there a point we reach when it’s better to just stay down? Hurt and pain are a part of life, just like happiness and joy. If you shut yourself off to the former, you deprive yourself of the latter. It is the struggle to find the balance, which becomes part of the bearing of life.
Every day, each of our lives intersects with others. In effect, we are tangled together, like a tree whose branches criss cross reaching for the sun. We walk out the door, and risk is everywhere. Cars, people, cracks in the sidewalk. There is no immunity to the predicaments of life. We can choose to go out and experience it, or sit inside and watch it pass us by.
It is these experiences that bind us together. Our stories get woven, and we become the writers. The authors of our own life. Looking around this room where we meet, each of us comes in week after week, sharing what we’ve written, whether it be fiction or truth. Our lives are intertwined. Maybe someone in our group is sick, has a loved one in pain, a friend in need, or good news; a book is released, a story was published, they won an award. Some have personally traveled the far reaches of the earth, and some it is the characters in their stories who have.
Our task for this one morning a week is to listen, share, encourage, and explore what it takes to help the other become realized. There is no hidden agenda, just the belief and trust in each other to be honest and real. Whatever stresses we have outside this room, in this moment, for these 150 minutes, these four walls are our safe zone. We are our own community.
There will always be someone whose suffering is greater than our own. It is how we carry it, how long it holds on to us, and how we release it, freeing ourselves for the next test. Some of us tell our story through words, some through actions. Some of us are the well that holds the sadness, while there are those who are the sunshine, who with their warmth, melt away the heaviness of the snow, creating a river which offers us the chance to let our troubles trace their way to the ocean. It is that balance of humanity which keeps the circle going. This is the circle of Wednesday.
I believe our purpose is to be unique, to have our distinctive imprint be remembered. Sometimes we are the mountain, representing strength and presence, formed by movement and time, and sometimes we are the water, cleansing, vital to our very existence. There will be times when the mountain has become too high, and we topple down, we then have the water to cleanse the dust from our fall, replenish our being, and renew our ability to start fresh again. Next week, each week, is an opportunity to continue a story, or start a new one.