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  • Natalie Taylor

SAN MIGUEL ARTISTS: Writing as art

Although I have concentrated on featuring visual artists in my articles, writers use words in a similar manner to create a unique final product which, when done well can have the same effect as viewing paintings or sculptures. The first part is the sheer pleasure of taking in something unique and well-crafted—it stimulates our imagination and makes us expand our intellectual horizons.

A recent research study in Norway considered the opinions of over 50,000 people who were frequent visitors to galleries, museums, concerts, theater, and movies. The participants were found to have better health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression. I think a good piece of writing can work the same way as the other arts, and in that sense I am placing writers in the same category as visual and auditory artists. Good writing can offer the same benefits for a reader.

Writers, like other artists, are solitary beings when they are in their creative mode. The nature of the discipline requires quiet and introspection; the antithesis of group activity and communal involvement. But a writer does not need to be antisocial, or distant from society. Many writers thrive in the company of others, and some might even be characterized as “social butterflies,” who love to be the center of attention, attending every social event they are invited to. Oscar Wilde, for example, beloved of Victorian high society, was sought after for his wit and charm at dinner parties, which he happily attended.

Oscar Wilde in his pensive mode

Many other famous writers were known for their social interactions. Ernest Hemingway engaged in daring adventures, and heavy drinking bouts. Truman Capote threw wild parties, such as the (invitation only) Black and White Ball in 1966 which drew hundreds of attendees from high society and Hollywood. As part of the celebration, 450 bottles champagne were served.

Capote at the Black & White Ball Hemingway drinking with friends

Those writers’ social interactions inspired and energized them, but when it came down to creating their works, they sequestered themselves far from the hustle and bustle. They found some quiet place away from everything but their imagination. In today’s article I would like to talk about artist-writers, specifically of San Miguel de Allende.

Many writing groups consolidate around the idea of reading and critiquing each other’s works, but a local writing group gathers for a different reason. They attempt to bridge the gap between social interaction and solitude. Amy Cotler, whom I interviewed, and Rosaleen Bertolino, have been facilitating a weekly gathering of writers for several years. The idea is to gather on a regular basis in a quiet place, allowing each writer to engage in their solitary craft. They begin with a brief statement about their intentions—anything from “I’m working on my novel,” to “I am writing family stories for my grandchildren.” This is followed by two hours of solitary writing, without talking or interruptions.

At the end of the two hour period, everyone comes together again. They go around, with each expressing how their time went. It can be a lament, as in “It was a disaster!” or an epiphany like “I think I am getting a handle on dialogue,” or finding value in straying from a proscribed path, as in “I started on my novel, then had a great idea for a short story.” If anyone wants to read, they are allowed to do so up to five minutes.

Most importantly, there is no commentary or critiquing. The experience is about sharing, and bearing witness to one’s own writing. This format provides a haven to any writer—seasoned authors as well as novices. There are no judgments, no instruction, it is all about creating a safe space for anyone interested in writing.

If you would like to find out more about this group, please contact Amy Cotler on her FB page.

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