Tonight’s the erotic reading circle at the Center for Sex and Culture, and I’m getting my promo materials together for the summer writing ourselves whole workshops, which will include the Monday night survivors writing workshop and a Tuesday night erotic writing workshop for survivors of sexual trauma. During a time when folks are struggling around money, are worried about the well-being of our planet and of our communities, I know it’s easy to question why anyone would devote precious time and energy to writing about sex. Why would someone join erotic writing workshop?
A couple years ago, I published the following wrangling with to that question in the Open Exchange magazine here in San Francisco:
Why an erotic writing workshop? The base of all Writing Ourselves Whole workshops is the trans-formative writing process, the option of opening up oneself into the heart of one’s experience. An erotic writing has opened, for me, an internal space for previously unexpressed desire, wish, need. This desire has not been confined to the erotic realm – I’ve found longings unrelated to sexuality rising to my surface, seeking expression and manifestation.
We do not have to be silenced through our limited erotic language any more. One of the things I have learned through both my studies and my own writing practice is that what we know ourselves to be is shaped in large part by how and what we know to say about ourselves – that is, by the words we can put to our inner and outer experiences. The deeper and more complicated our language, the deeper and more complicated – and often, simultaneously, more clear – our sense of our own identity, desire and self.
It can be scary to imagine writing explicitly about sex – with strangers, no less. Here’s what you can expect: we write together, as we’re inspired, in response to open-ended prompts; we read aloud after writing only if we want to, and, when we do decide to read aloud, our peers in writing respond to our writing as though it’s fiction and will tell us what they liked about what we shared. These last two pieces are important – for the erotic writing groups as well as for the survivors writing workshops at Writing Ourselves Whole – and are the main reason that we use the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop model.
Each of us as writers decides what part of what story we want to share or explore and/or create. We may begin with something rooted in the autobiographical, then weave into the fictional, and back again; no one can know what’s “fact” – and what listeners will hold on to is the emotional truth of the writing. These are our storytellings, and we will get to hear what’s already strong, already working, in our brand new works of art.
You my feel a desire to write but feel that you are not a writer, that you cannot write, maybe because someone in school told you so. It is often the folks with this belief who surprise themselves most with what flows from their pen. You may feel timid around the descriptions of sex and sexuality in your writing, and want a chance to work on that in a safe environment. You may have individual erotic desires that you’d like to explore before acting on. You may simply enjoy writing about sexuality or desire, and want the opportunity to practice your craft. You may be in the mood for something new and different. For all these reasons – and more – folks have come to the Declaring Our Erotic writing workshop.
(Originally appeared at http://www.openexchange.org/archives/OND07/cross.html)