Just Sherring

End of an Era

I bid adieu to my writing workshop journal. Moments like these are both proud and sad. Proud because I managed to fill a whole journal with my musings. Sad because, I’m resistant to change and have a hard time letting go of things (sometimes).

I’ve been using this black journal with three varying size gold bands across the front for four years. Prior to the pandemic, I attended Gotham Writing Workshops. More specifically, I attended their Friday Write-Ins. When I first moved to New York, I often spotted the Gotham Writers stands that held catalogs of their upcoming long and short-term courses. Comedy, blog, nonfiction, fiction, memoir, children’s stories writing. You name it, they taught it. Online or in person. From 2011-2013, I didn’t take any. I was enrolled in the MFA Creative Nonfiction program at New School.  After I graduated, I longed for the classroom energy and feel. I ping ponged between taking classes at Gotham Writers and the recently closed Catapult. I took weeks-long courses at Catapult, but Gotham—Gotham offered the more affordable Friday Write-Ins.

$20 for a single Friday night class, or even better, a 3-pack for $45. I usually opted for the latter, booking monthly, thereby guaranteeing I would put myself in a writing environment with my peers at least once a month. On the Friday evening of class, I would hustle to make it to the 6:30-8:30 pm class at 555 Eighth Ave building blocks but walking distance from my Times Square office.

Entering the building, there’s security desk with someone who just waves you up to the fourteenth floor. Upstairs, upon check-in in the small, cramped room, we’re told which assigned room is ours and given an unlined mini-notepad with the Gotham Writers logo emblazoned at the top and “Don’t forget to write.” in script and highlighted with the website and phone number printed at the bottom. We’d also receive a thick silver and yellow, blue-ink pen-yellow highlighter combo. The office/school supply nerd in me got giddy even though I supplied my own notebook and pen. I have a collection of those notepads and pens.

Before it clicked to designate a specific notebook for the Gotham workshops, I grabbed random notebooks or journals I had lying around my apartment to bring to the afterwork workshop. Years of writing are spread throughout various notebooks. Not to mention, I have a stack of unused journals deemed too pretty to use, or I’m waiting for That Special Project to pull them from the shelves. Dozens of unused notebooks and journals, yet I still begin drafts or jot notes on the backs of envelopes received in the mail. After buying a 2-pack of thin journals at Marshalls, I decided the black and gold one with “WRITE IT” across the front would be dedicated to Gotham.

First entry: September 9, 2019. Prompt #1: double trouble. Prompt #2: just one time. From then on, every time I took a Gotham workshop, I would write my prompted stories or essays in that notebook, some of which made it onto my blog Just Sherring. Just One Time is about my wish to experience camping, just once, so I can say I’ve experienced it. I’ve never been and already know I need just the one experience.

There’s a break between session one and session two of the Friday Write-Ins. During that time, we make flow into the hallway for complimentary finger snacks, such as cheese, crackers, grapes and wine. That’s the good part. The bad part: networking and making small talk. My kryptonite. I recognize faces, but I’m horrible with names. My mind goes blank when it’s time to make small talk. Sometimes, I’d grab my food and wine and go back to the room, where there may be at least one other fellow introvert. Sometimes those of us who escaped into the comfort of the always-hot room became a smaller networking group and talked amongst ourselves. Or maybe not. Depending on the season, we just listened to the clanking of the radiator or the humming of the air conditioning.

When covid hit, shutting down everything, it also shut down these weekly, in my case monthly, chances to gather and write—and on brave nights—share my writing with the group. I’m not sure how long into the pandemic when Gotham started offering the Friday Write-Ins for free via Zoom. They’d send out an email on Thursday to sign up for Friday slots. Only now, there were afternoon and evening offerings. I opt for the afternoon slots because Friday nights are movie nights, a habit I started at the top of the pandemic. Weeknights are regular TV shows, while weekends are for binge-watching movies and TV series on streaming services. But Friday night? Specifically during the 9 pm hour? That’s when it was time to hit “play” on a movie after eating dinner, washing the dishes, taking a hot shower, and pouring myself an adult beverage. Pre-pandemic, I was JUST a social drinker. Now? Tuh. Come Friday, give me my Ciroc, give me my Barbancourt, give me my wine, give me my peanut butter whisky, give me my Hendricks…

But I digress… afternoon Friday Write-Ins keep me free and on track to prepare for my Sher Friday Movie Date Night. Sadly, they’re solo, but I make the best of it. Even though the classes are via zoom, free, and weekly, I don’t attend as much as I’d like. Not only do the classes fill quickly, but because they’re mid-afternoon, I am working. Also, for the sake of community and my sanity, I’m enrolled in quite a few (free) writing workshops. Depending on their schedules, there might be two in one day. One group, we meet the first Friday of every month via Zoom. Sometimes I opt to skip Gotham knowing I’ll be in that 2-hour session that always goes beyond the 10 pm end time. Some of us stay on to chat about our writing and our lives. Like I said: community.

Two weeks ago, I realized I had to retire my black and gold writing journal. There were three pages left. Not enough for two writing prompts. The day’s writings would be split amongst two notebooks, which I did not want. I also do that with my personal journals. If I notice there are just a few pages left, I either purposely cut the journaling short or start a new journal. In this case, I started a new journal. The tinge of sadness surprised me. Flipping through the pages, I observed my scrawling script in blue ink, always blue ink, across the many pages. I noticed the cross-outs, the scribbles of notes in the top margin, the social media handles and email addresses I never followed up on.

Farewell, dear friend. I’ve moved on to your colleague with old fashioned suitcases on the cover. I will miss you and look forward to re-discovering you years from now and laughing and cringing about my writings from yesteryear.

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