I did not blog yesterday because it was our day off. Seven of us chose to visit Lucca, the rest Cinque Terre. We travelled by train from Aulla.
It was inevitable that those who travelled together would become closer during the train rides there and back (our own to Lucca took close to two hours) and as we wandered we gave each other the space to voice our objectives. For Laurence, this was finding a restaurant. For Terry Anne and I, this meant taking advantage of the shops. Pamela wanted the track down the finest gelato in town. Just as each of us has our own distinctive writing voice and preference of genre, we recognised that we wanted different things from our days out too. And that was fine. We made allowances and during this day of give and take, of listening, of caring and sharing, we bonded.
Today was ‘Writing About People’ day. I read a poem I wrote about my mother, called Busy, to kick start things. I am fortunate that my mother is still alive (and reading this blog) however, for many, this is as emotional a poem for them to listen to as it is for me to read. Writing about close relatives, or any person we have loved and maybe even lost, is emotive.
Today was the day that the writing went up a gear.
Now, as we all feel more comfortable in each others’ company, it is apparent that most students dared to go that little bit deeper when writing a subsequent profile of another person. While two students chose their fellow student, the poised, elegant and beautiful, 84-year-old Peeta, for their subject, others wrote about those they held dear. For some that meant writing with more emotion than on the previous days. In doing so many revealed, at last, their true writer’s voice. They wrote about who matters to them, exercised their powers of observation and wrote authentically, from the heart. Fifteen minutes later they bravely shared their work with the rest of the group as we sat, enrapt, on the vine terrace before one of Lois Breckon‘s delicious lunches.
“I’m sorry,” one said, removing her reading glasses and drying her eyes. “It’s the first time I’ve written about that, see. I’ve wanted to though for 23 years. I’m so glad I’ve started to get it out.”
No one spoke. Some of us wiped away tears of our own as we found our own resonance in her story. Everyone had or knew of a similar story. The writer’s painful profile had revealed a universal truth.
That’s what I love about teaching a class where the students see each other several times and build enough trust and respect for each other to ‘dare to share’. Today is day 6 and we have created what I call ‘a place of safety’. And it is in that place that magic happens.
“I believe that our best writing comes from a place of pain,” I said. “It is in this place that we find our voice and discover what matters. Do you agree?”
It has been a privilege to witness this transformation. Undoubtedly, the best work has begun.