Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: NightWriters offers keyboard therapy

‘Therapy can be as close as your smartphone” writes Benedict Carey in the New York Times and reprinted in the Feb. 14 Tribune. A promising idea: playing games to relieve depression and anxiety. Great for those who find it helpful, but writing can be just as beneficial.

Suppose for a minute you’re an anxious writer. Ask yourself: What would happen if people listened — really listened to what I have to say? Imagine eight people hanging on your every word. No one coughs. No one even moves as you read your poem, short story, essay, travel piece or memoir. At the end, all eight nod and smile, still rapt in the mood you’ve created. You feel — empowered.

Welcome to a SLO NightWriters critique group.

Wait — stay with me! Agreed, critique is a technical word that sounds like criticism, and who needs that? But group collaboration can build skills and self-esteem if done with respect. SLO NightWriters is announcing a How-To Critique Workshop as a way of launching new critique groups. With the help of experienced mentors, new members will learn to listen and evaluate in a nonthreatening manner.

Here’s one way a critique group might work.

Week One: All new members introduce themselves to the group. Each reads something he or she has written to give other members an idea of the writer’s style, voice, genre and skill level. Others in the group do nothing more than sit and listen attentively. Week Two: Each member reads for five minutes while the others offer what they like about the piece. Week Three: Each member reads for a timed period and each of the others offers critique in a single area, such as character development.

Starting slowly allows group members to build trust in one another. It helps build confidence as members share their words aloud, possibly for the first time, and gain skills in listening and critiquing.

SLO NightWriters is a nonprofit service organization dedicated to identifying, nurturing and building the writing community. The club will also offer a series of writing clinics based on Susan Tuttle’s “Write it Right,” a popular series previously available only in e-books. This workshop will be open to the public. Information on these and other Night-Writer events is available at www.slonightwriters.org  .

It doesn’t matter whether a writer is writing on a regular basis or not. A supportive community will nurture every level of talent. NightWriters recognizes that for a lot of people, disillusionment is the new breakfast of champions. Our members range from retired technical writers looking for fun as novelists or poets, to multi-published authors, both traditionally and e-published, to bloggers who aren’t interested in the publishing process, to people who feel they have a book or a story in them and aren’t sure how to take the next step.

We invite you to join us the second Tuesday of each month at the PG&E Education Center on Ontario Road, San Luis Obispo.

Anne Schroeder is publicity director of SLO NightWriters.