Every Thursday ‘San Diego Writer’s, Ink’, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing literary talent around the county, sponsors Pen to Paper, a fun and free writing group at the La Jolla Riford Library on Draper Avenue. It’s open to everybody, from novice writers to published authors, and is well-organized without being intimidating. There’s no elaborate sign-up process or terms and conditions to check before you take part – just show up with a notebook and a pen, ready to write. Today I joined in, after Linda Hutchinson (one of the long time Blue Book contributors) told me about it, and was really impressed by the experience. The group is run by Diane Malloy, a local writer, educator and actor, who does a fantastic job of keeping things rolling in a fast, fun and inclusive way.
It works like this: the group is given a prompt (just something simple – “the changing of the season”, for example) and then everybody takes a few minutes to write down their thoughts. It’s such a simple exercise, but does a great job of warming up the mind. While nobody is expected to read their work, it’s encouraged and is always interesting to hear what different people come up with (there’s no critiquing work, which makes everyone feel more at ease reading).
In part 2 of the program, a more open situational prompt is given to the group, along with twenty minutes of free-writing time. That’s all you get. Don’t worry about form, structure, grammar – it’s purely a way of generating new ideas, plots and characters. And it works. In a group of fifteen, we heard a range of completely unique narratives from each person, all done on the spot.
Creative writing, as wonderful as it seems, can be an immensely frustrating pastime. All those airy-fairy things you hear about it being a release from the stresses of life and a way to connect with yourself on a deep level is true to a large extent, but it doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes you’re left staring at an empty screen for hours on end, waiting for the magic to happen, wrestling an army of bad ideas while trying to single out a good one. On those days the process ranks up there with golf, rush-hour traffic on Torrey Pines Road and speaking to call center agents. The beauty of a class like this is that it doesn’t allow you to stagnate or over-think your work.
The fact that it’s in a really welcoming, friendly setting makes it all the more worthwhile. I’d like to thank Diane and everybody there for a fun group meeting. ‘pen to Paper’ takes place every Thursday at noon and goes on for one hour. If you’re interested in joining, contact the Rioford Library on (858) 552-1657. For more information about other workshops and groups, log on to San Diego Writer’s, Ink. Lastly, for any keen writers in the area, don’t forget about the upcoming La Jolla Writer’s Conference.