The Power of the Group

                In a rush of New Year, new good intention and bushy tailed optimism I’ve entered a new phase of story competition submissions. It all may be influenced by the coincidental cropping up of a few imminent deadlines, or I may have got over my fit of pique for getting on to yet another shortlist and no further ; nevertheless the urge to compete, to step up to the literary mark has been invigorated. In addition to this surge of competitive zeal-or alongside of it-I’ve signed up for a short course of creative writing sessions.

                During the time I’ve been blogging I have never mentioned my delightful writing group, who inspire, motivate and invigorate each others’ writing each and every time we meet-fortnightly, to be exact. I joined the group as a rooky ignoramus about three years ago, only to find myself inheriting the task of running it about six weeks later. In all the time I’ve been writing I’ve only ever really learned one thing, which is that the learning mountain for writing is insurmountable, and that I will, in all probability never get anywhere near the summit. In the time that we’ve met together, various members have come and gone, and others have come and stayed, so that now we are a comfortable set of seven who know each other well enough to offer honest critique respect each others’ views. We all feel that the sessions offer an invaluable input to our writing and that the work has improved as a result. Yet if there is one issue we must address it is that we are too polite, too complementary to each other. I read recently that children make more progress in any endeavour if they are not too broadly praised for every undertaking and this may also be true of we adults.

                The result of all these ponderings has catapulted me into the new group. We began by acting on the writing prompts [a set of questions] provided by the teacher, who is an attractive, vivacious blond lady. We wrote continuously for fifty minutes-no stopping to check emails, have my online Scrabble turn or read from The Guardian website; no breaks for coffee or gazing out of the window at the garden bird feeder. I wrote a lot. Here was a lesson in itself. I have no idea whether any of it was any good, since I am too bound up with the preparation of another story to look, but I’m guessing it may provide the basis for something new at some time.

               

                

Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!

                Whilst there is an increasing distance of years between my [proper] working life and retirement, there are still situations and occurrences that remind me of it. My last years were as a first school teacher. Seven year olds. Children of this age and younger retain an egocentric personality. They want attention. They crave praise. They want to stand out, be heard. What they patently do not want is to be ignored, especially by the adults charged with their care. The skill of an infant teacher lies, principally in managing to give each and every one of the children in their care the conviction that they are infinitely special and unique-which of course, they are.

                And what is it about adult life that reminds me of this? It is Facebook behaviour. Why? Because without exception, every post you read, watch, appreciate, scoff at has been displayed for the purpose of nurturing the ‘friend’s’ ego.

                I once shared an enormous classroom area with another teacher. There were, at any time, between sixty and seventy small children in this area, all clamouring for attention, for their shrill, little voices to be heard. As teachers we learned to capitalise on this desire for attention; we harnessed it. We used it to enhance experience. We facilitated ‘speaking and listening’ sessions. In those days we simply called it ‘sharing’. Of course there were very many tots and only a limited slot available. It was over-subscribed. Certain confident, precocious, verbose children dominated the session. My teacher partner conceived the brilliant idea of issuing ‘sharing’ tickets, like library tickets, that, once used could not be re-issued until every child had had a turn…Naturally there were, besides those who monopolised the session, some who never uttered, who had to be coaxed and cajoled into issuing a few words.

                On Facebook everyone [I do not except myself from this] wants attention. There are some who feel moved to offer up every nano-moment of their day, from what they’re cooking for dinner to what they can see from their window. There are those who feel the need to change their profile picture with monotonous frequency and elicit a gushing flow of complimentary comments. There are those like myself who post up album after album of snaps, [although I do try to keep them to a modest number-nobody is going to plough through 200 photos, wherever you’ve been]. And there are those who, in the absence of any pearls of wisdom to impart rake up quotes and sayings to share, often accompanied by pictures-flowers, baby animals, rainbows. These missives litter the screen like the pavement outside MacDonalds.

                The fact is, just like a class of small children, everyone wants to talk but nobody really wants to listen. Social networking? More ‘personal broadcasting’ perhaps?