I have brought up drop-in programs a couple of times in past blogs. From discussion groups to fitness classes, there are a lot of offerings on campus that allow you to get involved with something without requiring you to make hard commitments to them.
Last year, I discovered Write Now!, a drop-in reflective writing program. Weekly sessions are facilitated by student peer mentors and happen twice a week (one at Sidney Smith and another at Hart House). I don’t remember quite how I came across this program, but I do remember thinking that going to one of these sessions would be a good baby step in starting to get involved with campus events and extracurriculars again (I had just returned to school after a few years away). I wasn’t sure quite what to expect going in.
The idea is to write without being fussed about whether anything that’s coming out is actually any good. Write Now! sessions are meant to be stress-free, supportive environments during which you are free to explore and play around in the process of writing. Whether the words that come out end up being reflective musings or funny poetry or just random scribbles is really secondary to the point. No one’s going to grade or judge you on what you produce during these sessions. That’s not the point.
Throughout that year, I found myself falling (back) in love with writing: free-writing, creative writing, journalling, you name it. This year, I’m lucky enough to be one of the peer mentors for the program.
As we come to the end of February and our #JoyatUofT month, I’m reflecting on how many joyful moments I’ve had as a result of these sessions, whether as a participant or a facilitator. Yes, the act of writing itself is something that I take joy in (surprise, surprise) and I’m glad I have the opportunity to do that on campus in a way that’s stress-relieving and even therapeutic at times.
The unexpected joy that’s come out of my involvement with the program are the magical moments of community and connection that occur in between the writing. There’s always an opportunity to share during these sessions (although you’re perfectly welcome to not share and just be there to write for yourself). Sometimes people share something that’s personal or profound, other times it’s silly and random. It’s hard to explain what happens exactly, but the exchange of ideas and energy that happens in the room is such a unique experience. Because this type of free and unfiltered writing is so raw, it’s both weird and inspiring to find myself in these moments of sincere and honest connection with people who I don’t know and who I might never see again. There is some sense of community that’s created within that hour that seems meaningful in some way, even though (or maybe because) everyone knows it’s fleeting.
As a participant, there were sessions when I walked out without having said anything and still felt like I had just shared in some kind of an experience. As a mentor, I’m often pleasantly surprised at how the themes and prompts that are planned on paper somehow lead to completely unrelated but fascinating ideas in the sessions themselves. I love that I’m still just as much a participant now and that is something that certainly continues to bring me joy.
Write Now! is run in partnership with Poet in Community. This term weekly sessions happen Thursdays at Hart House (3:10-4:00pm, North Sitting Room) and Fridays at Sidney Smith Hall (12:10-1:00pm, SS 2116). Themes are posted in advance each week to the Poet in Community Facebook group. All are welcome! No writing experience required.