Monday, June 13, 2011


It's a gloomy morning here in the Inner Sunset district of San Francisco, although God knows the sun is trying to burn through the fog. I am moving around the apartment, doing "knucklehead" stuff, as they would call certain tasks on "West Wing" that fell below the radar of POTUS. I got cleaned up, had my healthy breakfast, did one load of dishes (there were two loads in the sink, so I have more knucklehead stuff for this afternoon), paid bills, filed papers, and in a few minutes will get to the job search. I am doing knucklehead stuff for a couple of reasons: I do this garbage every Monday; and I am waiting for UPS to deliver a package. Last month I signed up for something called Lost Crates, where, once a month, the recipient gets a sampling of the latest and greatest in art and/or writing supplies, without knowing what they'll be. It's probably the last thing I can afford, but I was intrigued, just to see what it would be, to have the anticipation of looking forward to something akin to a care package, as though I was still young enough and still learning enough to get those.

It's been a couple of months like that, though...looking forward to Giants games, to the Treme tour concert, to the Woody Allen movie, all at discounts, and all unexpected. This package will be the last big event for a while, and then I'll have to create events of my own--maybe a new job in the traditional sense, maybe a story sold.


For a long time I thought of Meetups as something formal, only operated by the truly sane and secure in themselves. The founder and original organizer of the Meetup series that I attend, "Shut Up and Write!" set the bar high. He's the perfect vision of manager/facilitator/mentor/motivator; when one of the group's members says, "Hey, why don't we have one in Berkeley?" his response is, "Yes, why don't YOU look into that?" This empowerment has created a spreading of the group throughout the Bay Area and continued it to New York City (with two groups there) and a new possibility now in Toronto. It's a great way to spread the word and the concept of the group geographically.

It's creating a bit of skirmish back here in the home turf, though.

Different organizers take different accountability for their groups, to be sure. The founder wants to make sure that every Shut Up and Write session is consistent, so that if you like Shut Up and Write you'll tell your friends, and either they'll come with you or go to a Shut Up and Write in their neighborhood. Keep in mind that the group has reached that level--this past week there were meetings in Berkeley, SoMA, the Mission, the Inner Richmond, and the Castro/Duboce Park area. I love that layout--I can finally go to Meetups close to me (for me, a Meetup that's close is one bus-line away from me), and I'm sure others find the locations that aren't close to me close to their homes or workplaces. It's a great idea. And so what if meetings fall on the same day as other meetings? It's still a great way to choose.

It's a great selection for everyone but one of the organizers, that is. Last week two of the organizers scheduled for the same time slot--one a long-established meeting in the Mission, one a first-time meeting in the Inner Richmond. Delightfully, the Inner Richmond is not only closer but in a library, so that I have a shorter commute AND I don't have to buy coffee and snacks to write. Surprisingly, the first-time meeting had more people sign up and actually show up than the long-established meeting, and I know from talking to that facilitator before that he was probably livid. He is a facilitator that does contract work, and he's in the middle of a project right now and doesn't come to his own meeting very often, but he hates it when other groups try to copy-cat or try to borrow the Shut Up and Write concept. I've always bit my tongue to keep from reminding him that we borrowed the concept from Natalie Goldberg.

I see this week, on Monday, that neither Wednesday group has scheduled. I can almost bet what has happened. Either neither one of the facilitators are scheduling, waiting to see if the other one will, or, they are both duking it out with the founder to see if this is ethical. Either way it seems a bit erratic--there's no Wednesday night meeting yet, and, if you want to grow your group, shouldn't you get a calendar up as soon as possible so that potential group members would want to make plans? Don't you at least want to LOOK stable?

All I could think of was Natalie Goldberg's final pages of "Long Quiet Highway," where she sat for peace in downtown Santa Fe every weekday from noon to twelve-thirty. She had been practicing Zen for years, and this wasn't a protest, it wasn't "partisan," it was just her way of dealing with the first Gulf War. I look at it this way--if I could write regardless, like Nat, then I'm grounded, I'm stable, and maybe others will join me. I'm thinking that they will be more likely to join me if I show up myself, but if not, well, that's their practice. Maybe it's time to establish a practice of my own, a Shut Up and Write of my own, to show up to regardless.

And it would be something to look forward to, without any doubt at all.

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