I arrived early, before the library had even opened. I don't like to be late. I recall that desk quote from weeks ago, which declared that punctuality is "the virtue of the bored" - and it made me angry all over again. I don't have to be bored to want to be punctual, to be respectful of other peoples time, maybe I just don't like rushing around in a fluster! I'm not really so angry about what some asshole inferred about my punctuality, I'm nervous. I don't know who will be there or what I'll have to do. I don't know why I am here.
The lady running the group today, is a grandmotherly figure - 60-something with grey choppy hair and a splash of bright lipstick - she's wearing a warm woollen jumper and one of those odd hybrid neck scarves that makes me wonder, is it for warmth or fashion? She has that crackly but joyful voice of wisdom, she muddles and fusses to herself, but I suspect her disorganisation is not a choice, but purely a way she gets everything in her life done. I deduce she is busy, and important, and probably a writer of fiction in her spare time, between painting landscapes and pottery classes. She's got spunk and I like it.
I survey the group. I missed the first meeting, so I don't know anyones name or 'story'. Some intellectuals, professionals, mums, creative's, wannabes and maybe one or two actuals. There's one other younger woman seated two spaces away - during her choppy reading later on reveals she's dyslexic, well there's always one ('special case' not dyslexic; sometimes I want to be the special one).
The lady across from me has a friendly smile and a name I can't pronounce, but she is warm and kind. She talks with a fellow South African seated next to her - I hear this lady talk about the novel she's almost finished writing, I recall seeing her name in the newspaper bylines - this one means business.
I recognise some local personalities, art-scene identity's and a crazy old woman who uses her walking stick like a bat - I remember her from work, she used to dance around the parallel bars as if they were a merry-go-round. Whenever she opens her mouth, sharp shards of truth come flying out - why oh why did I give her a hard copy of my assignment - she'd likely tear it to shreds in disgust, chew it whole or will it to spontaneously combust with her cold stare. Yikes. She got something like spunk and I don't like it.
I struggle during the in-session writing exercises, three minutes for the first, ten minutes for the next. Most of the attendees seem to slip straight into their ideas, I fumble, tripping over my own hands as if my fingers were not my own. After the exercises, most people read their work out. I can't - not yet. It's not up to scratch, I tell myself I need more practise.
I'm lazy I thought to myself - these people work at their craft, write and re-write. Not me - I just expect it to gush out of me like a broken pipe, all greatness and truth. I don't think this is how it really works. Tick tock...clearly not.
During the break, I linger at the table - become involved (by mere locality) in a conversation with the South African ladies. We talk about some of the stories that have come through, what might be involved with the 'critque'. The ladies turn to my work - they are being pleasant - "read it aloud" they tell me "it helps if you read it aloud, because then you can hear what's wrong". What's so wrong? The kind one tells me she really liked this one particular line, all of two lines, fifteen words. "You should always include something positive in your critique" the other tells me. Right.
Exactly how many creative pursuits can one person have before they appear desperate? I tell myself I just want to be great at one thing, not good at many things. Truth be known, I want to be great at all things, most, if not all of the time.
While procrastinating in the final ten minute challenge, I mull over the experience. I realise the group could be good for me, if I let it - if I don't take things so personally and accept that I'm not the worlds greatest anything. Take the lessons where they are given, and hope they pay off. I pull a clean page from beneath and scribble quickly so no-one sees, "oh StrangeBird, quit plucking at your own feathers - you must get yourself some thicker skin"....