Does a computer help you write better?

That depends.

If you’re entering a lot of data or are editing a lengthy manuscript, it’s probably the tool of choice. But in creative writing a computer can get in the way. At least that’s how one professional sees it.

To shed writing blocks and develop their creative voice, a group of women will soon return to Fifth House Lodge in Bridgton for an annual six-session women’s writing group.

And they won’t be using laptops.

“I think the best writing comes from the scratch of the pen against the pad,” says Joan Lee Hunter, writing professional and proprietor of Fifth House Lodge in Bridgton. “It’s an organic process, sort of flowing out of you and down your arm onto the page.”

Hunter said writing on a computer temps one to constantly edit, which usually becomes a distraction. “The computer becomes an element between you and the writing that doesn’t necessarily have to be there,” she says.

Hunter teaches newcomers as well as seasoned authors simple meditative writing methods designed to discover story and meaning and help free writers from their writing blocks. The setting of Fifth House Lodge, an old tourist destination from the 1930s, works as a positive element for patrons. Set up on a hill with great views, the lodge allows clarity to come through.

“Writing isn’t rocket science,” Hunter says. “The writer just has to develop a certain sensibility and awareness of his or her world. Some have this at birth while others just have to develop it.”

Hunter, in her 60s, came back to the hills of western Maine to start Fifth House Lodge in 1999. For most of the 1990s she lived in Portland and taught at the University of Southern Maine and other institutions, but said she missed the beauty of the western Lakes Region. Originally from Maryland, Hunter first came to nearby Lovell in 1973 and raised a family.

She now works with all types: individuals and groups, men and women, and said she often has to re-train folks from how they might have been first taught to write.

“In school, we were all taught to think about what we were going to write before starting,” she said. “I have just the opposite technique. Just try to have a blank slate for a mind. Just write what you hear.”

And she wants to hear everything one has to say, especially from women. Through her work, Hunter has noticed differences in how men and women approach writing. She said men have no problem taking up space on the page; they know how to elaborate. While women, particularly those over 55 were taught early on not to take up too much space.

“It’s a cultural thing I help people get through,” she says. “There are all kinds of reasons why people are blocked as writers. Some of them are very simple.”

The six-session women’s writing group begins June 15, and meets every Wednesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. There are still openings. To find out more, contact Hunter at 647-3506 or email her at [email protected].


Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]