I am sitting in the Lemon Tree Restaurant in Windhoek, Namibia, waiting for my fellow writers to show up. It is raining, and everybody is happy about that.
Rain is a gift in Namibia; it is such a dry country and it rarely rains. The sound of rain provides a wonderful setting to write. As I wait, I realize that they are on Namibia Time, an equivalent to Yukon Time.
It is our fourth creative writing meeting and I am happy when my group shows up. We are four: Melanie Namwandi, her 18-year-old cousin Martha and fellow writer Teresia Tunelago Iindongo – we are complete for today’s writing group.
Inspired by my writer friend in the Yukon, Jessica Simon, I started a Creative Writing Group in Namibia. Jessica Simon’s group is called Cramp Hand and meets up once a month to work together.
I started my group by creating a Facebook page and setting up a meeting. I was not sure if people would show up, but eventually they did. There is no such group here.
I brought a box of writing prompts along; picture prompts, words, complex writing exercises and prompts for poems. Some of them I had copied from my friend Jessica, others I had found online.
We write in 10 minute sections to a prompt and then we share what we have written. We only give positive feedback to encourage each other; this group is not about criticism.
The first meeting was a success. During the writing, one of the participants found that she got a cramp in her hand, while writing so much by hand. The others agreed. So I renamed the group Cramped Hand Namibia.
One of the writers, Martha Asheeke, gave me some feedback about the group and writing prompts: “I love them, because they help me not to overthink my writing,” she said. “It gives me a sense of direction, because I don't always know where to start when I write.”
After the first meeting I set up a meeting every two weeks in different spots across Windhoek. I haven't found the perfect place yet, there is no Starbucks in Namibia, but there are nice coffee shops and restaurants.
Back to the Lemon Tree Restaurant: it is a good place to write, located in a courtyard and quiet. After everyone has ordered a drink, we start to write.
It is our fourth meeting and this time we write to more challenging prompts like writing a poem in which we have to use the words soothe, smooth, dark, work.
Compared to the Yukon writing group, I noticed that in Namibia we talk more about writing, and it sometimes gets really personal and we share our experiences and deep thoughts.
“The creative writing group has provided me with a platform to step out of my shell and be strong enough to share my writing,” says fellow writer Teresia Tunelago Iindongo. “It is a community where there's an abundance of space held for all the writers to celebrate our ideas, writing and our personalities.”
Melanie Namwandi, another participant, tells me that she is always looking forward to each meeting. It encourages her to write, she says. In the past she became discouraged about writing and stopped because she thought, “It is not worth it.” Now she found a reason to start again, and is happy about it, she tells me.
I make it clear, that it is more about creativity than perfect writing; even if what we write sounds silly, it’s fine.
So we all share a laugh while Melanie reads a dialogue that she wrote. The prompt was about writing a dialogue in which people sing to each other instead of talking.
This time even Melanie’s 18-year-old-cousin, Martha, shares her poem. She is hesitant to do so, so Melanie reads it for her. It was the first time Martha did creative writing and out came a lot of rhymes, which the group enjoys listening to.
This group has a pioneer spirit, because writing prompts and creative writing is new to most people here. So the whole concept is fresh and it is interesting to watch my group members experiencing it.
I am already dreaming about gathering our best work to publish a little book someday. But I know, in Namibia, I have to take things step by step, day by day – orderly planning The German Way will not get me far. I enjoy watching the creativity develop from meeting to meeting – and who knows, maybe one day, you will find our poems and prose in a little publication.
For more information about our group find us on Facebook: Cramped Hand Namibia.