Not that we like to blow our own trumpet but we thought you might be interested in reading about the experiences of one of our old members and what he got out of West Lothian Writers. Written by Robert Breustedt this article can be found in From The Purple Notebook, our first collection.
Why I Joined West Lothian Writers
Trying to strike up a conversation with the person seated next to him at a dinner party, the late Peter Cook asked, “What are you doing at the moment?” The person replied that he was writing a book, to which Cook rejoined, “Neither am I.”
Whether Cook was being derogatory, or whether he was being perceptive I cannot say. But I do know it is one thing to muse about being a ‘writer’, and something else altogether to put these musings in a coherent, readable and interesting format that people will want to read. The challenging reality for many when the urge to write begins to be put into practice, is harnessing the creative actuality of the craft.
Anyone who has read Charles Shultz’s Peanuts will be familiar with Snoopy the dog’s tortured machinations on the road to become a published author, best described in ‘Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life’(Barnard Conrad and Monte Schulz. Pub. Writer’s Digest Books). In his attempts to become a recognised writer, seated precariously atop the apex of his kennel, he determinedly hammers the type writer keys as though beating his tangled thoughts into submission and onto the paper, with variations of, “It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out.” An attention grabber if ever there was one. But it all goes downhill from there on in.
Having been an avid reader all my life and, being a fairly creative person (us Piscean’s darlings!) I had often thought about attempting to write fiction. In fact, years ago I wrote a couple of short stories I then shared with a few close relations. Even they found it difficult to be gracious. But still, the urge remained, though dormant for a time, until I heard about the Livingston writing group, West Lothian Writers. I knew I needed some kind of external stimulus, more than from books on writing, so I decided to go to one of their meetings.
The group were very welcoming and I soon discovered the normal format for meetings. Those involved in the group would bring a current piece of work, share some of it with us, and then time would be given over to questioning, critiquing and making helpful suggestions. Depending on numbers, not everyone may have the opportunity to read, but those who did not would be given priority at the next meeting. All kinds of styles and interests became apparent in both prose and poetry. I was frequently impressed by the quality of the work and by the perceptive, and always kind and thoughtful critiques. Even so, I did not bring anything to read for the first 6 to 8 meetings, but eventually plucked up courage and brought along a short story I was working on. The group were wonderfully affirming even though they had to, rightly, talk me through errors in grammar, syntax and make suggestions about the structure. It was all very helpful and encouraging, even though I knew I had a long way to go. But being part of the group was for me, and others, a continual stimulus to keep on writing, and experimenting whilst setting ourselves deadlines to produce new material to share, and hopefully, to get published. We also benefited from the advice of visiting authors, and from sometimes doing practical writing exercises on the night.
Since joining the group I have written a number of short stories and am currently working to put two collections on Kindle. I am also researching for a novel set mainly in upstate New York. None of which would have happened without the help and encouragement of West Lothian Writers.
I moved to take up employment in England last year and have not found anything comparable WLW. I miss the spark of the group and the friendship of those who, like me, whether we ever get published or not, enjoy writing, and encouraging others to do so too. If only Snoopy had come to West Lothian Write!