John said something unusual on the first day of the workshop.
Our instructor asked why we chose to enroll ourselves in such an endeavor. What do we hope for?
John told us he was dying from a rare form of cancer.
At that time, he was still feeling good. He said he was here to finish up something before he passed. He’d written love letters to his wife and wanted our help to get them “right.”
This three-part writing workshop was for those transitioning through change, divorce, loss, grief, and growth. I had all of those things occurring at the same time.
We gathered from poetry, stories, free writing, silence, discussion, and participatory exercises to stimulate reflection, self-understanding, and our depth of healing and hope.
Powerful stuff. Important, worthwhile work.
After John shared, it dawned on me that writing isn’t exactly about writing.
Writing is about remarkable communication.
It’s about accomplishing something with language that is important in our lives. Writing is a means towards something more significant no matter how poorly we feel.
That writing workshop was where we gave one another our full attention. Doing so is one way to advance dreams and move forward with life.
Thanks to the influence of John, I put my attention toward being a communicator of life work.
I emphasize the creative process and what it feels like to be my witness. This is something meaningful that I’d like to pass on to my children.
Most people will never attend a writer’s workshop, but we all have the workshop of life to live.
I like to think that, in our way, one way or another, we’re all collectors of the bits of life — adding in our thoughts and responses because that makes us feel significant, and it’s our way of declaring it precious. At least, that’s what my favorite people do.
I see listening and writing as an act of optimism, it’s a way for us to clarify what we need to do. Then use writing to move in that direction.
“Life work” is about finding why a particular encounter stayed with us. It’s narrowing our way deeper until we understand what happened there. Because it’s not random that you forget so many things throughout a day but specifically remember others. There is something that reveals who you are and what you are here to do.
One way to put this into perspective…
You’re home at dinner to gather with family or loved ones and find yourself talking about an encounter from the day, and something worth telling about happened.
What is it? What did it reveal that you know to be true?
You don’t need to be a writer to do this. You only need to be you.
Whatever that experience — you can share your story. As a mentor has written, “You can write as you talk.”
This is emotional labor, and it’s the required life work from a world that needs our stories, poems, little pieces — our work.
Our content is our voice and perspective.
Personal stories help us understand and experience human connections.
My small contribution is pretending I’m sitting down with you for coffee and telling you about an encounter from the day that stuck.
I’m reminded of John at our workshop, who, with cancer, was practicing to get the communication “right” and have something to pass on.
If you were to begin writing in the spirit of yourself, what communication would you want to pass on?