This weekend I attended a writing workshop with Rosemary called “What Geniuses Know.” I was really pumped because I haven’t had a chance to go to any of the workshops before, and I didn’t really know what to expect.
Since I am currently not working a 9-to-5, I had the pleasure of offering Rosemary transportation to and from High Shoals, where the workshop was taking place, and I was able to (I think) finally bond with her.
The workshop took place at this beautiful renovated house of a Zona Rosa Alpha Babe (what the Atlanta group is called) named Kathleen, who now rents it out as a vacation home. The house was spectacular – so cozy, and perfect for this workshop. Upon our arrival, I was met by another Zona Rosan, Jill, whom I had never met but her warmness made me feel immediately like I was in a good place, a happy place.
I spent Friday night there with Kathleen, Jill, Rosemary and Alpha Babe Pamella, the legendary Zona Rosa chef who prepares the scrumptious meals for most of the workshops. Saturday morning I woke up really early, but so did Jill, and I ended up having the best conversation with her about everything that has been going on in my life recently. It was so therapeutic; she had an amazing perspective on everything I shared.
The other workshop attendees started to arrive a little before 10:00am, and staked out their seats for the day. As they trickled in, I realized I was the youngest by at least 15 years, most of them having grown children, and even grandchildren, and I started to feel overwhelmed that most of them have really lived, and have had far more interesting stories than I could ever share. (Not to mention that I was sitting in a room chock-full of MILFs – so many gorgeous women!) I felt embarrassed being there, humbled to be in what I presumed to be the presence of writing greatness.
The first exorcise (also called Pilates on Paper) was “What three things are you a genius of?”
1.) Making efficiency easy.
2.) Finding goodness in every situation.
3.) My sense of whimsy, childlike wonder.
It was difficult, especially given that lately, I feel I’m not a genius of much of anything, except keeping our house clean. When I read my answers, Rosemary said they described me perfectly. After hearing some of the other responses, I also added “research” to my list, reminded that my friend Nadia has said this to me on many occasions, given my insatiable need to Google everything.
The second was sizeably more difficult – “What are 3 negative beliefs that hold me back?”
1.) I do not write eloquently enough to write anything worth reading.
2.) I don’t offer anything new to the world that hasn’t already been said.
3.) An overwhelming fear of judgment from others. (Which is weird, given that I blog).
As I learned, my fears are pretty common. Rosemary chose me to share first for this exorcise, and many of the women that shared after me had the same fears, which made me realize it doesn’t matter how good you really are, the fears of rejection and judgment are still there.
The last exorcise Rosemary had us do was a stream-of-consciousness using the word “you” instead of “I” – sharing fantasies, experiences, ideas, feelings, senses, memories, etc. Mine really reflected how I was feeling right then, and my fears became evident:
You have never been around such an amazing group of women in your life. Their experiences, goals and feelings are things you fear you’ll never feel. The world is so new to you, how can you sit down and write what you do not know. You are a novice and they are skilled craftsmen, and you try to soak up every word. When is your life supposed to start, you wonder. Did it start when you finished school, when you got your first job, when you got married? You thought it did, but hen realized you still have much more growing up to do. Things to learn and see and do, how can you possibly fit it all in, and good gracious, you’re already 25. You should be in grad school, you should have figured out what you want to do, you should want to hold off on having babies, because once you do, there’s no turning back… But yet, you can’t help but feel like you’re letting someone down for wanting the normalcy so many others run from.
Here you sit, in your black leather desk chair, staring into your blank computer screen, silently begging for words to come, for something powerful, something true. And you have nothing. Paralyzed by fear, you can’t put anything on paper for fear of judgment. Judgment is keeping you from truly living the life you want to live. Maybe these wonderful, beautiful women can help you figure out what you want to say, what you need to say.
You want to be proud of yourself and you just haven’t tapped that inner freedom of living free of judgment. People don’t understand that you’re not running out to find a job you don’t care about because you have a job – and it’s learning to write your truths.
You want to make your grandfather proud. He was a writer, the strong silent type, and you wish you could have taken advantage of hearing his writing life stories before his other life was over. For some reason, you worry he only saw you through to your bratty teenage years, and you wished he could’ve been proud of you, of your own writing life. Sadly, there’s nobody in your family that shares your need to create something. You’re a loner, a creative black sheep… But you feel your connection with him, and you’re filled with thoughts like flickering lightning bugs, lighting up the darkness of your otherwise murky vision of who you are what you want for yourself.
Knowing full and well that I’d probably have to read that to the group after I wrote it, I panicked, thinking I should try and write something else in the time I had left, because here my insecurities were, all splayed out on the page. Cheap words hussied out, spilling out of their so-called undergarments. But, I read it anyway, and when I did, I got emotional, and started to tear before I got to the end. They praised me for being so honest and were humbled by my admiration.
The rest of the workshop was spent reading manuscripts, and I couldn’t bring myself to offer up anything I’d written, I just listened and responded to others’ writing instead, taking it all in. For every manuscript read, I gained a newfound appreciation for the world (as cheesy as it sounds), and felt my heart swell.
Saturday night I went to sleep easily, emotionally exhausted from the workshop, and before leaving Sunday morning, Jill said something to me that really resonated – “You need to make sure you give yourself time to relax when you get home. It’s emotionally draining when you go through these workshops, and you need to give yourself some time to take it all in.”
Truer words have never been spoken, as I came home yesterday afternoon and took a 2-hour nap on the couch with the dog. I came home feeling creatively refreshed, and had a deeper appreciation for everything and everyone I have in my life.
*The Prologue to Secrets of the Zona Rosa.