On Tuesday I visited a writing group at a maximum security prison. A group of young men who are in there for serious crimes are trying to make sense of their lives, trying to find a better path. We sat together and discussed writing. I was awed by the interest, the thoughtfulness of their comments and questions, and the courage of these men.
Think of it. They're in prison and they're taking part in an activity that even in grade school could get you laughed at. It must take an enormous amount of courage to come to this writer's group, to try something new, to open themselves up and to put their own thoughts on paper for someone else to read.
They were so interested in all aspects of writing - the process, character development, discipline, outlining, something as seemingly simple as knowing when to quit for the day - it made me realize the value of sharing thoughts as I hadn't before. I also learned, once again, not to judge a book by its cover (pun intended). Interesting ideas can come from anyone, from any background, in any circumstance.
I was absolutely humbled by the warmth of the reception I got and the fact that they actually listened to me as if I were a 'real' writer. And as I sat there I realized that I am a real writer and that I'd better respect that.
I wish these men so much success. Their lives may be limited by walls and guards, but not by lack of imagination or the ability to learn.