Last night, on the drive back to Athens with my boyfriend, we discussed writing and the exchange of energy and the absolute magic of WRITE CLUB.
Let me go back… Because I can’t talk about how amazing WRITE CLUB is without first introducing you.
Last summer, I got an email from Shelby Hofer, c0-director of PushPush Theater in Decatur. Apparently, they needed woman writers for an event they were hosting and she had asked Hollis Gillespie, my mentor of sorts, for some suggestions. Shelby included me, with others, asking if I wanted to participate in this new writing event and could I please send over some writing samples.
Writing samples? Uhhh… What? Huh? So I scrambled for some samples, I’m pretty sure I sent over one or two Date Wrecks pieces and one piece from here and then I sat on the edge of my seat, pathetically refreshing my gmail for a reply. The reply was, “Oh, you didn’t have to send in a sample. Hollis says you’re good enough, then you’re in.”
It was my first time speaking in public, outside of my public speaking class in college. It was the first time I had ever had to write a piece on a topic, outside of my English classes in college. I was nervous and scared and overwhelmed. I spent days pouring over my piece, editing, reading it aloud, irritating all of my friends, “Would you look at this and tell me what you think?”
WRITE CLUB, at it’s core, is a literary event with three rounds, six combatants, paired off with opposing topics. Light vs. Dark, Chaos vs. Order, Fantasy vs. Reality, etc. Each combatant gets seven minutes, and not a second longer, to read an original piece on the topic they are assigned. The audience determines, by applause, who has won the bout and a portion of the door money collected goes to the winning combatant’s favorite charity.
It ended up being a night that ushered me into a new realm as a writer… Prior to WRITE CLUB, I was a girl that sometimes wrote. I had been writing my entire life and I was on the tail-end of Date Wrecks, a shockingly successful little project that took me by surprise. The thing is, as much as Date Wrecks was a part of me and reflected my writing style, once upon a time, I had outgrown it… WRITE CLUB was a big part of that process, of realizing that I was hitting the ceiling inside of Date Wrecks… Of realizing my full potential as a writer was yet to be realized…
As fun as Date Wrecks was, it was the kind of thing where… Hm… I had been doing it so long and it had, mostly, remained the same. It wasn’t challenging anymore. I could look at a Date Wreck’s Online Dating Profile and rattle off a laundry list of insults and wise cracks in almost no time, with almost no effort. Foolishly, I thought for a while, “This is it… This is so easy because this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” But after a while, I grew bored with it… Like an exercise routine that doesn’t even cause you to break a sweat anymore, I wasn’t growing.
My essay at WRITE CLUB on that first night against Ian was very much in the same voice, the same style as Date Wrecks had been. And I still I won that night. I don’t mean to cheapen the style of Date Wrecks… I don’t mean to insult it as “not art” or anything like that… It was, and still is, a worthwhile work. I had just outgrown it… And having a live audience was doubly as addicting as having a digital audience.
I’m telling you, the electricity that you feel when a room full of strangers howl at your jokes and scream and stomp and cheer when you’ve finished… It’s an entirely out of body experience. When I get up on the stage, the first minute or two I’m still a little shaky, lights both blinding and hot in your face. But once I hit the three minute mark, I’ve found my stride, I’m in a full sprint. I stop listening to the sound of my voice and start listening to the audience and the words on my paper start to float up and leap off the paper. The writing becomes me… The performance takes over me.
Maybe I’m partial because WRITE CLUB is the only literary reading style thing I’ve ever done… But I feel like WRITE CLUB is my church. I go through the month, plowing through work and my duties as a parent and a girlfriend and a friend… I might find time to write, but it’s always the thing I put on the back burner because, as much as it satisfies me, it’s a selfish kind of satisfaction. It’s not something that I have to share with anyone else to enjoy. Finding “me time” is hard. But once a month (or as often as I can go), I make the pilgrimage down 316, down 85, down 285… All the while, the whooshing hum of the highway guiding my meditative re-reading, final edits, nervous hand-wringing… The excitement of not knowing who is going first until RIGHT BEFORE IT HAPPENS… And then, Nick screaming, “Jami, are you ready?” It happens, right then… The magic. And the buzzing and vibrations inside of my body don’t stop for days sometimes.
It’s not just about my performance either… Being in the presence of other like-minded creative-types, exchanging ideas, listening and cheering each other on and going head-to-head, figuratively smashing one another and then afterwards, actually toasting each other with beers and slaps on the back. It’s the sense of community that it creates, it’s that part, for me, that makes it like church.
On the ride home, Colin and I were just buzzing back and forth, feeling inspired and chattering away about what writing means to us and how we feel so energized and renewed… I got choked up last night in the car talking about it. That’s the first time it’s happened to me. As much as WRITE CLUB seems to be about literary bloodshed, a battle to the death, it’s so much more than that. I could write and write and write about it, but you just need to go. You need to go.
You need to go.
If it doesn’t change your life, you’ll at least do good without being all preachy.