annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


About writing groups

I've been asked to write a thing about the writing group at the recovery centre, which has been ridiculously hard, but here it is instead of a blog. I'm not sure about the comment about sensitive topics - what do you think? I think the whole thing sounds stiff and awkward and maybe I'd be better off just describing it here, to you guys and seeing how it goes. But not now, as I'm knackered.

"When I was first referred to City Mental Health Team I attended (among other things) a regular drop in writing session at ECMHT’s site at City General. I enjoyed this very much, for the break it gave me from my thoughts and my current situation, for the way forgotten incidents bobbed back to the surface and for the way relationships deepened between regular attendees, including the staff who also wrote and read out their writing. I was saddened when this group was lost to funding cuts.
Since attending PPRC I have been trying to nudge various staff members into starting a similar group, without success, and in the end someone suggested that I shut up and run one myself.
It’s been a long haul from that suggestion to actually starting the group, partly due to life events and staff changing jobs, but mainly due to the ebb and flow of my confidence. I was especially troubled by the potential to upset people by bringing to mind traumatic events – as a teacher of writing I’d previously focused on the dramatic - ‘when were you most frightened?’ or childhood memories – ‘when did you first go out alone?’ which I knew were better avoided in a mental health context. I spent months in search of a set of perfect, trigger-proof writing prompts, which of course don’t exist.
But finally we made it, me and Carmen, a pile of paper, a fistful of pens and hurrah, a few members arrived. The first prompt I used was bonfire – write anything you like about bonfires and wouldn’t you know it, someone had recently suffered a traumatic bonfire-related event which she wrote about vividly and read out movingly and it was all bloody hideous and I lost the plot a bit though Carmen said it didn’t show and the group had been good enough for me to do more, if I wanted to, which I did.
Next time I was ready with a list of points which I now read out at the start of the group, you don’t have to share your work etc, including one about sensitive topics (basically please fuck off and don’t tell us about it). (Not really)
Six weeks on and I’m still anxious each week that no one will turn up, as the clock edges towards two and I sit in the empty room, with an optimistic pile of paper and clutch of pens… but so far there has always been someone, often a few, and there are one or two regulars, one of whom is a proper inspiration with a uniquely bizarre vision and astonishing use of language.
This week was a great example of the value of the group. A woman I didn’t know emerged from a nearby room, hunched up and miserable looking. She came in and fidgeted a lot, fussing over which paper, putting off the start, expressing disbelief in her ability to write for five minutes. But she gave it a go, became absorbed and at the end of the five minutes volunteered to read hers out first. What she’d written was interesting and surprising and my genuine positive response visibly perked her up. By the end of the session, after three exercises, she was smiling, chatty and holding herself more upright. She said she’d enjoyed it and would come again. I hope she does.
I love hearing what people have written – it’s always surprising and often moving. I’m proud of this group. I like that people remark upon it being a safe place, as if that’s unusual. It’s reminded me that I was a good teacher and has given me the confidence to think about trying to earn money through writing groups. Somehow, somewhere."

12:33 a.m. - 29.10.18


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