Eileen Whitener teaches one of PWN’s generative writing classes, Just Write. Aimed at the shy or new writer (and with the help of guided writing prompts), this class offers a supportive environment to invite you into the storytelling mindset.
We “sat down” with Eileen to talk about how to coax out the hidden writer …
PWN: To begin, tell us a little about your writing background.
EILEEN: I grew up writing fiction and studied literature and creative writing in college. I dabble in lots of different writing forms, though, including technical writing as my day job. My writerly fun fact is that a song that I co-wrote with my husband was included in BlacKkKlansman and Warren Miller’s Future Retro. Recently, I’ve been focusing on writing poetry and journaling.
PWN: You’ve said the Just Write class is about making writing joyful and freeing. Can you explain more?
EILEEN: I believe that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, or dictation to device) can be a deeply freeing and satisfying experience. Each of us has stories to tell. And we have the tools to tell them! Just Write is about giving ourselves time and permission to write while knowing that we’re part of a supportive community of writers.
PWN: Having a supportive environment is key to new writers. How can a class offer that?
EILEEN: Just Write is designed to give writers lots of ways in. Not sure what to write about? We read poetry, fiction, essays, and other pieces during each class to help inspire us, and I always offer potential prompts (which writers are free to accept, reject, or remix however they want). Nervous about reading your writing in front of others? It is always optional to share writing, and we don’t do any critique in this class. Those who do choose to share will always receive a few compliments from the group before we move on! We also start each session with a chat about community guidelines to make sure that we all share an understanding of what safety and support look like within our class.
PWN: Besides taking the Just Write class (wink wink), what would you say to people who want to begin to write but don’t know where to start?
EILEEN: This will sound very basic, but hear me out: The most important thing to do is schedule some writing time. Then, during that time, put aside any distractions and take out your favorite writing tools. Have an idea or a prompt on standby. (Two of my favorite prompts are holiday memories or finishing a sentence like “I remember…”) Then, go for it! And don’t let yourself stare too long at a blank page – you can start by writing anything.
PWN: Where do you find your inspiration to “just write?”
EILEEN: These days, I try to capture little moments in a way that can show someone else a slice of what the world is like for me. I think we all want to feel seen and understood. I often feel like writing is the best way for me to share what I think about and what I value with others.
Well, thank you, Eileen, for taking the time to talk to us. We will see you around the Zoom studio.