Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from May. We asked, “Have you ever felt creatively stifled by responsibilities? Have you ever been amazed by a gem you hewed, just when you assumed you hadn’t created anything original at all?
Cara Holman writes:
It is conceivable that I would have eventually joined a writing group if I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer. But, the point is, I didn’t. A guilty voice continued to thwart my aspirations by whispering in my ear, “You have enough to do. You don’t need yet another activity. And what are you going to write about anyway? Organizing carpools? Laundry? PTC meetings?” Years of parenting, it seemed, had dulled my creative side.
Then one day, I happened to notice a flyer for a cancer survivor’s creative writing group in the waiting area of my oncologist’s office. And there it was: an invitation to write. Writing was always one of my secret passions in life. I was prepared to beg, plead, or bribe my way into the group if need be, since enrollment was limited. Fortunately, none of the above was necessary.
I don’t know quite what I expected of the group, because if truth be told, I approached it with a great deal of trepidation that first day. It wasn’t the writing part I worried about. It was the idea of sharing my personal thoughts, at a time in my life when I already felt vulnerable. I firmly resolved to participate in the most passive way possible — by doing the writing exercises and listening to others read aloud only.
I immediately abandoned that resolution once I penned my first piece. As snowflakes swirled around outside the window, I surprisingly found myself writing an innocuous enough narrative about finding the perfect seashell at the beach when I was a little girl. When SuEllen, our group’s facilitator, called for volunteers to read aloud, a quick glance around me revealed that everyone in the room was equally afraid. Nothing fosters confidence more quickly than knowing you’re not alone. While I wasn’t quite brave enough to read first (that would have been Lisa), I did after all manage to muster up the courage to read, and have been reading aloud ever since.
Writing group is now one of the highlights of my week. I still enjoy writing at home, but it is an entirely different process to write for and with others. I am now completely hooked on receiving instant feedback from a supportive group of fellow writers. Not everything we produce is stellar, but it is intrinsically honest, and in my book, that’s worth far more.
True, I do sometimes write about carpools, PTC meetings and anything kid related. I also write about gardening, roads not taken, missing jigsaw puzzle pieces, dim sum, birds, magic wands, and oh, even occasionally cancer. Nothing is off limits. I tended to discount our earliest writing efforts as being of more therapeutic than literary value. Now, however, I appreciate them for what they really are: courageous attempts to interpret the world through the lens of our own experience carefully crafted and polished until our voices shine through. What could be more creative than that!
Cara Holman can be reached at cara(dot)holman(at)gmail(dot)com.