The Workshop: A Digital Age of Writers' Cafés, The NEW Bohemians
My writers' group is the most amazing thing that has happened to my writing. Actually, I'm should pluralize. I'm in two. One is for critiquing long-form pieces and the other short form and publicity bits. The first group is a small group, there's just four of us. It's easier to write if you aren't constantly critiquing... So a small group is good. The second group, there's seven of us. Makes for an interesting chat when we're all available, but direct messages are generally easy to follow... and we're rarely always all available, so it makes it much more efficient experience when we have workshop days.
Interestingly, my husband noted that we were like the circles of poets and writers that used to travel together or visit cafés and talk politics and writing and art.
I imagine Lord Byron, his nutty entourage of monkeys, peacocks, a dog, some footmen, and a disturbed physician, when he met with the Shelleys (though it was still Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin at the time) and his lover (also once Percy's, what a tangled web!) Claire Clairemont. A coterie of talented poets and writers stayed late nights at Byron's rented Villa Diodati in Geneva writing and "debauching."
I imagine Franz Kafka at Café Montmartre in Prague getting a cockroach in his cake and thinking, "Gee, what if man is the unclean? What makes something unclean? Am I unclean? You are a good bug."
I imagine Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway in the café La Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse drinking, well, not coffee or tea, and smoking and swearing the night away.
And then I turn to my writers' groups. We are a mish-mosh of backgrounds. Live in different parts of the country. Hells, one person even lives out of the country. And one person is from a different part of the world. We rove the electronic highways, the information biways. We meet in groups around the world. From the comfort of our own homes, our gyms, our cars, our work, our favorite watering holes, while we're traveling.
We're more bohemian than the bohemians.
But the important thing about these groups, these fellow bohemians, is that we're like-minded. Supportive. Just like the artists that met in the cafés. We throw ideas back and forth. We help each other with projects. We support each other when life gets hard.
We may talk about children taking rolls of wet wipes out and deviled eggs more than the fate of the political world and the status of art in the times... But I'm sure the bohemians, Stein, Hemingway, and Kafka all had moments where life was a tummy ache.