Anita Mechler: How DWWP Saved Me

Close to ten years ago, I had the misfortune of taking a creative writing class with a class-A jerkface professor who not only forced the entire class to buy his book of short stories, but also used that book during the entirety of the class to teach us how to write. He claimed that he would break us of all of our bad writing habits but he mostly killed the spirit of my writing. As a parting gift, I decided, instead of pouring my heart into the work I really loved, to write the most titillating piece of G-rated writing that I could muster. Much to my dismay, he loved it and so did my college literary magazine.

I stopped writing for almost 10 years, even though I had been a writer after being introducing to journaling as a pre-pubescent. Years later, I sat my best friend’s kitchen with a group of misfit writers. In our hands was one piece that we had written previously that we now would have to share with the group whether we were ready or not. We eyed each other suspiciously, hopefully, shyly. We were terrified and excited about what would happen next. I read my titillating college story at my first Drinkers With Writing Problems (DWWP) meeting, revisiting it and all of the mixed emotions it brought me.

As an adult, I no longer had the unfettered hours of creativity at my fingertips like when I was a kid and teenager at my parent’s house or as a young adult in my college dorm room. I now had to worry about my “career” while trying to pay rent. It was further complicated by the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I took many detours getting there: drinking, biking, dramatic romantic relationships, many many roommates, apartments, petty jobs, parties, and finally, roller derby.

Slowly, I had begun to find my tribe and I was starting to feel settled in my life. DWWP members were there for me in a way that my literary magazines in high school and college weren’t. While I had the chance to see my work in print in those school publications, I had no support system. The people in DWWP weren’t there to break down other writers or judge their pieces (sometimes unnecessarily harshly) for our publication. We were there to bolster, encourage, and experience growth together. We were there to write, no more, no less.

My best friend had gathered a small group, those who had writerly aspirations who were alone and who struggled with the self-discipline to make more of their writing than scribbles in a journal. This was the beginning of what would later become your neighborhood friendly DWWPers. We all came with our own baggage that day; I was afraid that no one would like my writing unless it alluded to sex and not all of the other things that held my interest. I was afraid that I didn’t have what it took to be a writer, that I had waited too long to launch a new project in my life. Today I am confident to say that we have grown and supported each other along to a great journey since then. Our paths have led us to surprising places like comedy clubs and writing for web series.

No one threw tomatoes at me at that first meeting and they haven’t since (not an invitation, you guys!). Instead what I found was what I needed to re-light my fire as a writer:

  • Accountability – I had to turn in something to my group to post on our blog or at the very least, show up to our meetings to write (and drink and eat wings). This has increased my output exponentially.
  • Support – some meetings we just sat around and talked about how much we hated our own writing and would commiserate with each other. Other times we talked about how much we genuinely enjoyed each other’s writing and helped each other in places where we felt stuck. We revealed things about ourselves and in turn bonded with each other.
  • Growth – other members of DWWP have shared with me their inspirations, their writing prompts, their thoughtful opinions on my pieces, and most importantly, the courage to continue writing.

Thank you for reading and thank you to my fellow DWWPers and supporters. If you are in the Chicago-land area, I highly recommend that you come to our Writing Workshop and see the magic for yourself.

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