We've had a drop in attendance at The Writers @ Lovedean over the last couple of months. Some of which have been easily explained by members holidays and work commitments. However, a regular has explained he wants a break for a while and this has caused a concerned ripple.
While walking the doggie this morning I had a chance for a bit of quiet reflection. When I took over the group three years ago I had very clear goals over what I wanted. Being woman and mother I have to deal with a lot of feeling of guilt. So I wanted a group where if you didn't come for a week or two ( or during the six week holidays), or if you hadn't managed to write that week you didn't feel guilty or inadequate.
I wanted a group that gave members an opportunity to do some writing, even if it was just 45 minutes every fortnight. Because so often it is an impossible task to make time for yourself.
It was going to be an opportunity to learn from other writers who had 'made it' in the form of meet the author events and workshops. A bit of a kick up the bottom to encourage members to enter competitions, read out their work and step outside their comfort zones.
Plus a good dash of a social element, write out days and meals out when someone has had a success. An anthology to show case or prove that we have done something over the last twelve months. I was all excited and geared up about it.
But mainly a place were you don't feel obliged that you have to do it. And for the most part it has worked, sometimes it hasn't.
The group runs Friday mornings, and usually Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings I have the answer phone and email box of little rumbles.
The last couple of months I haven't had the time and not really the inclination to make the return calls and visits and it's shown in the attendance. So it was good to have some real thinking time this morning. I'm a people pleaser. I don't like cliques, and will have a coffee with anyone. And I'm very familiar with the black dog of depression and I try to make time for someone who is feeling low.
I think some people do need a little more encouragement and feedback than others. It's nice when you can be a shoulder to cry on, and great if you can give some encouragement, and sometimes a loving push to have a go at a new challenge. Or reassure to someone that they haven't hurt anyone's feeling and the group doesn't hate them. That's okay. But I think I've made a bit of a guilt mill stone for myself.
I was watching doggie pursue a squirrel, he didn't get it and I thought. Why are you feeling guilty and put yourself under more pressure? You're paid the room rent, made sure there tea coffee and biscuits, and got a writing activity ready for tomorrow and plus made time to do the anthology next week. When you can, you make the call, listen to the grumble and make the visit. But sometimes, when there's cakes to be made for school and Brownies, the accounts and mileage needs to be done. You're already getting up at 5 to do the ironing and mowing the lawn at 7.30 in the evening. Sometimes things slip through the net. Sometimes you forget to buy the aluminium foil and bathroom cleaner and come home with more toilet rolls instead. There are going to be times when you have bought a box of malteasers to say thank you to a member for their hard work and you have got up in the middle of the night and scoffed the lot. There are going to be times when you ditch what you know you should be doing to have a coffee and a chat with someone, because quiet frankly you like having coffees and chats.
If I was one of my own members I would be saying, chill, you're doing your best, don't worry see how it goes. I put the dog in the car, determined to get my business head on ready for the appointments in Winchester and Fareham. I was focused and determined until I got home, when I phoned the member of the group to see if he was alright and pinged off a hopefully reassuring email to another.