Juggling: the grant, teaching and my own writing time

Hi, Shewrites members! I feel I am coming up for air after months of concentrating on everyone else's writing but my own.

The award of a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to bring writing workshops into a series of non-profit organizations has been a dream come true. When I created Writing Circles for Healing, my intention was to encourage and guide people who do not think of themselves as writers but have a story to tell. I knew I wanted to bring self-reflective writing into support groups, agencies that provide services for at risk youth, and wellness centers. I had experienced the power of spontaneous writing and immediate transformation, tears and laughter,  a safe setting for people to confront their fears and speak their truth aloud. I am not a therapist, the writing is not "therapy" but it is a therapuetic tool. I use my intuition to bring themes and writing  prompts; for example, I have the participants in Care for the Care-giver write about how they take care of themselves. I have the men in the prison writing workshop write about how fate can be changed into destiny. Or the students in a high school write about a close call. And I love to use poems to jump start the right brain creative process, so at a women's retreat, we laugh, and write inspired by What Do Women Want? by Kim Addonizio.


But since receiving the grant, which enables me to bring writing into a year's worth of non-profits from homeless youth to victims of domestic violence to the central library, life has become hectic. Little did I calculate the hours spent in meetings, emails and phone calls, the necessity for background checks and references, the amount of preparation time to create folders filled with hand outs and poems, and the additional travel time on the bus.


Besides the grant, I also returned to the afterschool writing group at a high school, a commmunity ed class,  a continuing ed class at MCTC (Minneapolis Community & Technical College) and a writing class at Stillwater Prison. Each class is slightly differently focused, but all are writers who need guidance, suggestions, and assurances.


I just couldn't keep all three balls in the air and so what fell down was my own writing.

Of course, I am participating in the workshops and writing along with those in the circle. I fill notebooks with my own self-reflective writing and am amazed at how my perspective might change when using the same prompt as in a previous workshop. Each time new realizations pop up. Thank God!

But I also feel emptied from the experience of teaching. Hearing of others' traumas, conflicts, rebellions and agonies takes all of my concentration.  For those who want to improve their writing skills, listening intently for writing strengths and weaknesses and responding with strategies for improvement takes its toll.


I love to hear stories, stories of courage and presistence. Until you sit together in a circle and write of what perhaps you have never spoken of, we would never know what you might have been through, and survived.  I often find someone has expressed exactly how I feel.

On the other hand, I can't seem to get back into a flow and my latest novel has been abandoned, my  poetry folder has nothing to excite me, my blogs have been ignored, I have not been submitting, and my ink and inspiration seems to have dried up.

I know this is temporary. I love teaching and the love of language, self-expression on the page, performing to a live audience, attending open mics, and the next project will excite me again.


I wonder if this is just the challenge of teaching? Do other teachers experience this? Or is it time for the ground to lie fallow, to rest and dream and contemplate, to allow regeneration? Is it a type of mid-life crisis? Or is it simply that I am doing the work I need to be doing and the story I need to tell is still unfolding?


 (To read more about the grant: www.facebook.com/WritingCirclesForHealing


or www.wendybrownbaez.com

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