Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Older Women Flock to Writing

As the 4th anniversary of the Women’s Writing Circle approaches, I continue to be amazed that our read-arounds and critiques are still going strong – even stronger than when we first started in a little independent bookstore here in suburban Philadelphia. 

The majority of those who attend the Circle are in their mid-40s through early 70s.  One woman recently admitted that when it came to writing she was “a babe in the woods.”  She had never before attempted to write a narrative, let alone a story she is considering for publication.

For many, writing is a way at this late stage of the game to unearth long-held struggles. The desire to find refuge and meaning motivates her dogged journey.  It also requires the support of a group of like-minded people. 

Recently, someone asked if I had designed the Circle with older women  in mind since younger women in their 20s and 30s weren't attending. I said ‘no.’  It just happened that way.  I surmise that younger women may not be able to devote the time to writing.  While they raise families and forge careers, writing goes on the backburner. Older women have the time; the children are grown, careers over or on the wane, and they possess the hindsight of experience.  The older woman is anxious to tell her story in a community of people, often unrelated to  her in terms of family. 
Writing has become more reliable for many than therapy.  Why didn’t I get along with my mother, what was the family bickering really about, why did this person play such an important role in my life? Through the art of storytelling, many are lifting the burdens and finding the light at the end of the tunnel. 
In a world such as ours that has become increasingly isolating, alienating and lonely, there is a beauty in lighting the candle, ringing the chime and sharing in the ancient art of storytelling.

I believe that much of the strength that lies in the explosive interest not just in memoir, but writing workshops and writers' groups, rests in writing as a way to be acknowledged and validated.  While much has been made about social media, the connections and communities formed online -  even online writing seminars, those things cannot take the place of  writers risking to come together face-to-face, meeting in the flesh and blood. 

We seek more than “liking” each other on our Facebook page.  There is a confidentiality to our Circle which is a welcome contrast to the public forum that is the Internet.

I believe that what we want in our heart of hearts is to find a group of listeners who can not only support us, but help us dissect what our piece is really about as we seek our truths. 
Over the years I have watched dozens and dozens of women come and go in the Circle.  Many tell me they believe writing can help them heal or make sense of things.  I try not to make any promises in that regard.  I have always stressed that I am a writer, a wordsmith, who like they, travel a journey of self-discovery by virtue of story.  I am not a therapist.  Yet the revelations we share in the Circle lend themselves to being therapeutic not just for the writer, but the listener.

That's one of the reasons I see a great willingness and desire for guidance in the techniques and craft that make for good writing.  This provides the tools to understand and put on paper what our stories are about.  We learn that it is important not just to write about ourselves, but about others if we want to "connect the dots."
As we move forward on this adventure, I love our ‘babes in the woods’.  They are forging their stories from the fires of life . . . survivors chronicling the everyday journey of the ordinary and the extraordinary and finding in writing a community.  I am honored to be a part of this mission.

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