I just started taking a writing class with the CSU continuing education arm known as "Osher Lifelong Learning". It is specifically for people over 50 to enroll and keep their minds sharp. I'm only 49 for a couple more months but they let me enroll. Not sure that I would normally be jumping up and down to be categorized into the 50+ group yet, but darn it, I wanted to take the class, so I swallowed my pride and signed up for the old folks writing class.
It is not so much a writing class as really a writing seminar. The word "class" would denote to me that we are being taught fundamentals and mechanics. This is really not the case. What we are being taught is to put our pencils onto the paper and write whatever we feel like writing. Our teacher is an inspirational leader, not in the over the top loud and motivational speaker type of way. Rather, she is a small kind grey-haired woman, a published poet. She speaks softly but I find myself hanging on her every word. She reads us poetry and memoirs in class, and she makes me realize that the art of reading out loud is truly an art. We all sit enraptured by her voice inflections and pauses. When she reads, there is nothing else in the world that matters. Our group of old writing folks sit in silence and listen, like kids gathered around the storyteller at a campfire.
Then she gives us prompts. Simple ideas to write about for ten minutes. Some of us feverishly write our thoughts, some of us stare at the walls before writing our thoughts, but we all get something down on paper. Here is the best part: We can volunteer to read out loud to the group, and most of us do. No one makes fun of anything that is written, we laugh and we sympathize. Some have cried as they read their difficult pieces, and some have made us all smile. It is an accepting group and every one there has a story to tell. It is actually a pleasure to read to the group because as soon as you finish, there are words of encouragement and praise and a sense of community. Our teacher always picks out something unique about the piece, maybe just one striking scene in it, and highlights the positive, what we might expand upon.
Each week we have an assignment to turn in the following week. This is the best type of school - there are no formal grades, and if the assignment doesn't interest you, she says "write about whatever you want". Her only rule is that each piece must be titled, or she warns that she will pick the title for us. I've always been an eager student to please the teacher, so having the assignment in place is the only prompt I need to accomplish it.
When I leave the class each Tuesday, I actually feel like I have taken a yoga or meditation class. I leave with a sense of well-being and calm. It feels good to share some of my inside thoughts and experiences with my group of old folk writers, and therapeutic in a way.