"Avoid Cliques, Gangs, Groups"

6.     Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

From Zadie Smith’s “10 Rules of Writing”, which was linked to BrainPickings last weekend. Resolutions. Wisdom. 

I have visited and worked in prisons for a lot of years, and have the privilege of holding many stories in my soul. Stories of hurt. Of hurting. Of moving forward, making some sense of the twists and turns, the mortality and the pain. And of connection, and healing, and joy.

The lines blur between the hurt of those most affected by crime – the incarcerated and those harmed. I'm still trying to tease out why some do not go on to rain pain on others. I feel wonder at the souls inside who get up each day and do their work. How we can encourage “No More Victims”. And the stories stacked up in my brain.

I got lots of writing done at Point No Point this year, inspired by the beach walks

I got lots of writing done at Point No Point this year, inspired by the beach walks

From those stories, this one rose up. A place where honesty and safety meant freedom – and vulnerability. Where authenticity and a great setting have led writing coaches to ask “Does that place exist in Canada?” Only in my imagination…so far.

Well, a week ago my writing group gave me their all, from within the walls of a medium security prison. Offered a vulnerability from their stories, and opened a path for me that enriches this story. And last night they gave me more.

Walking from my car after an amazing night, I was humbled. Awed. That 15 years later, I continue to work to bring this story to life. It was a gift to me a long time ago, and life played out so that sometimes there were years I didn't look at it, but the story persisted. I'm privileged that they are willing to give so much.

Sometimes I can't believe it is happening...almost finished. The support and space for doing this is amazing. I'm not feeling oppressive stress, just some self-imposed tension to get it out...soon.

Because good enough is enough.
The story deserves to be read.

This year. This year Beth’s story will be done – and published.

Because of my clique, group, gang.

So while I agree with Zadie Smith in principle, some cliques, groups and gangs have definitely improved my writing, my storytelling.

And those men and women deserve a big piece of the credit for helping me to both discern and articulate the truth in the story.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.


PS Find yourself a writer’s group that offers feedback, and encourages your craft. Truly. It’s been a game-changer for me.