Artistic Hopefuls

Once a week I get together with my writing group–an eclectic, highly intelligent and, er…very loud flock of women I know from various facets of my life Here. Two are parents of children I taught several years ago, one is a former colleague and one I met in a writing class. We came together from disparate (though geographically localized) realms last fall after sussing out among us a common goal and a shared dilemma: we all wanted to write and we weren’t doing enough of it.

On Tuesday mornings, rain or shine, we meet at one of our houses for coffee and crumpets and to celebrate words. We don’t have a cheer or anything, but we really do revel. After preliminary (though vital) conversations about hair cuts and our kids’ health, we pull out our notebooks and laptops and discuss–at great length and with great vigor–the story or poem  one of us is working on toiling over. The suggestions are firm but gentle, the praise most sincere.

The Writers: Shannon, Beth & Alana. (Janet’s living in Costa Rica for a few months so is Skyping in on that computer in the middle of the table.)

I’ve grown incredibly fond of these women. To tell you the truth, our time together is the most magical part of my week–especially when measured against the three thousand other uninspired hours that make up all those days in-between our meet ups. And I’m oh-so grateful for how good I feel afterwards…relaxed and inspired and all gushy inside–kind of like what happens after soaking in a hot bath of lavender scented suds for an hour.

I like to envision one of the projects one of us is working on catapulting to the top of the Amazon bestseller list and then being excerpted in the New Yorker. I imagine all of us cackling together on the Metro North train on our way to one of our jam-packed readings at St Mark’s bookstore. But, really, those events would just be gravy. The real thing is, we are all becoming better writers because of this time we spend together–as coaches and fans gently coaxing one another’s fragile, determined, artistic temperaments into the light.

The truth is, we’re becoming better people, too. Or at least I am. The conversations we have, once hesitant and littered with intermittent silence and noise, now flow easily back and forth, sloshing against our own (personal) banks of proclivity and palate, but with a reverence and appreciation that no amount of criticism can sully. We’re learning (and loving) one another’s quirks and inclinations–celebrating them even–and I dare say we’ve become more than a disparate group of fledgling artists, but a cohesive, loyal and passionate group of friends.

Alice Walker once asked: “If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”









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