Recently, I met up with my friend Yasuyo to do some writing. Yasuyo used to run a writing club on Friday nights, where a whole group of people would meet at a café near Iidabashi Station. However, since Covid 19, the club has been put on hiatus. Hopefully, when things are back to normal and there are no restrictions, we can hold proper events again.
I first met Yasuyo at a writers’ conference two years ago. I heard about the workshop because an old friend of my dad’s, Mike, was doing a talk there. Mike is a lecturer at a university in Tokyo and has published some mystery novels. I don’t know him very well, but I admire him because he is a successful writer and fluent in Japanese. I think it was a little strange for him when I introduced myself, because I look just like my dad, and they used to hang out when they were about my age. I’m sure Mike felt like he had traveled back in time.
I found Mike’s lecture very useful. It was about making your writing more engaging, for example, how you should avoid overusing words like ‘looked’, ‘felt’ and ‘heard’ in fiction because they distance the reader from the action and experiences of your characters. For example, a sentence like “He felt cold. He heard an owl hoot in the trees and looked up” is a little boring compared to “The cold bit bone-deep. An owl’s mournful cries drew his eyes upwards.” That’s not a perfect example but the basic idea is that creative writing is best with a variety of dramatic verbs instead of repeating the same basic ones.
Yasuyo writes emotional novels with light fantasy elements, similar to ones written by authors such as Haruki Murakami or Neil Gaiman. We met when we teamed up for an activity in another of the conference day’s workshops. She told me the first novel she had written was inspired by the life and death of her old cat. When she said that, I immediately knew we would be friends. She invited me to join her club the next Friday.
Yasuyo started the club so she could motivate herself to write every week. The group met every Friday, and we would all say hello, then go and sit at separate tables. We would work on our own projects for two hours, then meet at one table to chat about our progress and share ideas. Writing is a lonely hobby with many challenges, so it was really nice to talk to other writers. It also helped me stay on track, because even if I was really tired and busy, I had two hours set aside to do some work on a Friday evening. It was interesting to talk to different kinds of writers too. Most of us worked on fiction, but some members wrote non-fiction, or even poetry.
While the writing club has not yet returned in its original form, Yasuyo and I met the other day to do some work on our new projects and catch up. We both wrote with just a pen and paper, instead of our usual laptops. I managed to come up with some good ideas for characters and a basic plot for a new story.
hiatus (n) – a pause or break in activity
mournful (adj.) – expressing sadness, regret or grief
stay on track (idiom) – to continue to do; to make sufficient progress
come up with… (an idea/ a joke/ a plan) (phr. v) – to think of or create