Write, Wrong or Indifferent
Joining a Writer’s Guild
By: Jana Greene
Joining a local writer’s guild almost kept me from writing. I say “almost” because I have since come to love it and look forward to the monthly meetings. It was because of fear – yeah, that old chestnut – that I nearly didn’t participate at all.
From the time I could hold a crayon, I wrote about things. I can remember forming “J”s first, and from there, looping and dotting kindergarten hieroglyphics to tell my story. Because even then, I was a historian of sorts, not a fiction writer. I felt the need to journal everything I experienced and observed, wanting to chronicle my own life story. My name is Jana, and I am six was my first story. And later, I wrote about the things that happened to me as a child – some of them traumatic – that I could not speak about aloud. Many times, in middle and high schools, I wrote angst-laden pieces about my social awkwardness, with titles like: I don’t fit in anywhere .
What a strange little girl I was. But writing things down helped me deal with things, big and small, that I couldn’t reconcile in my spirit any other way.
At forty-three years of age, I am still a strange bird. If I am going to tell my story, I’d better start doing it now. I am becoming annoyingly forgetful, and I don’t want to erroneously tell someone else’s story by mistake. One of my dearest friends, a woman named Melissa, also finds comfort in the writing, and has her own story to tell. We are forever vowing to write a book together about overcoming struggles and such, but we can’t seem to lasso one issue onto the page before another is bucking and rearing back, thus our tales never seem to get written. This is why we joined a writer’s guild, a Christian writer’s guild.
I missed the first monthly meeting , which was kind of an orientation. I was sick that day. But the following afternoon, Melissa left a breathless voicemail on my phone about her experience.
“Jana!” She began. “Guess what? I know what we are supposed to DO with our lives! Call me!”
I could not dial her number fast enough. Our very purpose, made clear! (Of course I would be absent on the day my life’s purpose was designated!) Her line rang only twice. When she picked it up, I could feel her warm energy burning through the line.
“Write,” she said, instead of ‘hello’. “You and I, we are supposed to write!” With her sweet, Georgian accent, she launched into a synopsis of her time at the meeting. There were other women, she said, just like us, who dream to translate a tiny little fraction of what God whispers into our lives onto the page.
But of course! We needed support! Support from a group was the missing ingredient; it might even override the fear….the fear that still says that I don’t fit in anywhere.
That evening, I could hardly wait to write a piece for the next month’s meeting. But what to write? Whisper to me, Lord. Please whisper.
Nothing. Like the proverbial author who sits down to his typewriter and taps out the word “The”. And that’s all.
I strained for ideas, for eloquence. I longed to write as Helen Steiner Rice, the prolific Christian poet whose very prose rivals those of the Psalms. I wanted to present something that would glorify God and really showcase my writing style, except that those two things are sometimes mutually inclusive.
Stalling, I logged onto the guild website and paid my dues (literally, with MasterCard). No turning back now! Surfing through the site, I noticed that one of the membership perks was a free critique.
Critique. That sounded a lot like critic, the root word of criticism, which I am not a huge fan of, constructive or otherwise. Immediately my concern went from channeling Helen Steiner Rice in order to glorify the Almighty, to how I would soothe my own bruised ego when the bruising commenced. Ashamedly, I was licking my wounds before the whip was anywhere near.
It is those self-serving thoughts that result in articles titled “The”, wherein the main character – me – does nothing. Writes nothing. Glorifies no-one.
God, what do you want me to say?
And with that prayer, a pseudo-crisis appeared in my life just in time to become the subject of an actual story. The issue was that my eldest daughter decided to make good on a lifetime threat to get a tattoo, and I was upset about it (hey, don’t judge me for judging her!) so I wrote about the experience from a mother’s point of view. As usual, a serious bout of writer’s block was averted by the antics of one of my children (thanks, girls)! The piece I wrote was raw and real, and more importantly, helped me heal from an event I couldn’t work through my mind and spirit any other way. It was twice as long as the guild guidelines allowed for, and did not follow proper grammatical rules. Also, it contained the word “damn”. It was a rather rough “rough draft”.
I removed the naughty word, but left the rest alone. With no idea what to expect (or who my fellow guilders were), Melissa and I agreed to meet at the front door of the church that hosted the meetings. Still, I wondered…..what if I don’t fit in?
I drove there with my hands on the wheel at “9’o clock” and “3 o’clock”, just like they teach you in Driver’s Ed. My hands were shaking that badly.