A couple of months ago, I announced a new group called Shitty First Drafts.
Soon thereafter, I realized I didn’t have a clear enough vision yet for how it would be different from my other groups, so I decided to give it some time to gestate. I pulled it from my website, not knowing whether I’d resurrect, transform, or scrap it.
Soon, it became clear what the problem was. The problem was what the problem so often is: I was trying too hard.
Something similar happened two years ago, when an idea that began as exciting grew increasingly unwieldy the more I worked on it. I reached out to a trusted writer and teacher for some perspective. Our conversation circled around one of my favorite questions: Where is there ease?
A 12-week group called “Creative Ease” emerged from that shift, which eventually morphed into Jewels on the Path, one of my cornerstone groups.
Some ideas come fast and furious, sprung like Athena whole and complete, and I often take what one of my sisters affectionately calls a “shoot, ready, aim” approach to putting things out there. I trust the idea and then dive into the details, rather than the other way around. I love the playfulness and trust this entails.
But it doesn’t always work.
Shitty First Drafts, in its original inception, didn’t quite work. The format of the group was too close to other things I already offer, and I couldn’t for the life of me articulate who it was for or what would make it special.
Until it hit me: The name of this program won’t be Shitty First Drafts, a phrase made famous by Anne Lamott. It will be something even simpler. Ready for it?
That’s right. Just that. Six weeks of just writing. Showing up once a week to put your pen to paper, to start and keep going, to let your words show up on the page and your voice take up room in space. To connect with others in an intimate setting, where we are all in it together.
How will it work?
- We’ll gather via Zoom (download here) and spend 30 minutes writing. There may be a reading or prompt to start us off, but the purpose of this time is to sit down and get words on the page.
- Following the writing period, each participant will have 15 minutes to read their words out loud and receive comments and feedback from the group.
- Each participant will be assigned a week to be the Featured Writer. She’ll send out a piece in advance for the rest of us to read, and have our undivided attention for 20 minutes of workshop-style discussion about her work, including addressing any specific feedback requests.
- Our time will conclude with each writers stating an intention or writing goal for the coming week. Writers may choose to continue with one piece of writing or to generate new material — the choice is yours, the time is yours.
- Two 40-minute coaching calls . We can use these to talk about specific pieces of writing, to brainstorm and bounce around ideas, and to address any challenges your faces and ways forward.
Why so simple?
Because sometimes all we need is the loosest of containers, the gentlest accountability, the fewest bells and the quietest whistles. At the end of the day — which is when this group will occur — it’s ultimately about showing up, sitting down, and just writing. Shitty first drafts and perhaps more polished drafts will follow, or not. The words you discover might be seeds of longer pieces, fragments of dreams, freewrites you’ll discard completely, or something else altogether. One of the only things I know for sure about the writing process is this: Writing begets writing. And having a small, supportive community of listeners and witnesses creates some mighty magic.
What else is included in the cost?
In addition to 2.5 hours per week together as a group, of both silent writing time and group sharing and discussion, you’ll schedule two 40-minute calls with me. We can use this time to focus on specific pieces of writing, to tease out where you get blocked, and to play with ways to continue to go deeper into your own work. There’s no specific agenda for our calls; this is your time, and a chance to talk about whatever’s going on for you in writing + life.
Will the calls be recorded?
The calls will be recorded. We will have a secret Facebook group for the express purpose of sharing these, in case you miss one and/or simply want to go back to listen to comments on your work again. The Facebook group will also be a place to share encouragement and support throughout the week.
Who should join:
Anyone who wants to produce more pages but finds that perfectionism and procrastination interfere with progress. This group is open to all gender identities and expressions as well as to all genres, though creative nonfiction and personal essay will likely comprise most of the writing. No previous experience in writing groups necessary. This group is also totally compatible with any of Jena’s other writing groups.
Do I need a particular project?
No, though it’s also fine if you do.
Risks and possible side-effects:
Heightened self-awareness, greater curiosity and sense of inquiry, deepening sense of trust in your own quirky and wondrous creative process, and increased willingness to keep going in the face of not knowing may all arise as secondary byproducts of this group.
Can I sign up for the calls and not the coaching?
Not for this group. In order to ensure a high level of participation and commitment, everyone in the Just Write groups will be working with me privately in addition to meeting with the group. If you’re interested in a super supportive, long-term (12 week) accountability group, check out Jewels on the Path. Or drop me a line and we can discuss what would be a good fit.
Dates + Times:
Two sections will kick off the new year:
Tuesdays, 1:00-3:30PM EST: January 16, 23, 30, February 6 , 13, 27 (3 remaining spots)
Thursdays: , 5:30-8:00PM EST: January 18, 25, February 8, 15, March 1 (6 spots)
please note there will be no groups on 2/20 and 2/22
Register + Payment:
Registration deadline is Friday, January 5, 2018.
Reserve your spot today with a non-refundable $99 deposit. You will be automatically billed for two additional installments of $160, two and four weeks after registering. Or use the “Buy Now” button below to pay in full.
Don’t forget to send me a note telling me which group you’d like to join (Tuesdays or Thursdays).