This raw reflective post shares what I have been struggling to put into words: a desire for relationship and recognition, even during transactional moments like registration.
Specifically, I’m reflecting on what I’m learning and how I’m longing for sliding-scale registrations to be a form of relationality itself—where all people are recognized and resourced. Can registration be relational? What would that mean, especially when money is involved and we live within the structures and conditioning of capitalism?
The sort of work I do involves providing support and holding space one-with-one and in small-groups. It is rooted in reciprocal relationships, inherently community-based, and collaboratively created by everyone who joins in. Whether in writing groups or retreats, tailored coaching or more formal consultations, I appreciate the work because it is interactive, intimate, and animate. It is connecting and particularly non-transactional.
But the relational mode of interacting is at odds with the moment of registration when transaction creeps in. And I really want to counter how we’re primed to participate in this process. I want to reach toward relationality, even in registrations. Is this possible?
I hope you’ll consider these questions with me.
Again, toward learning and unlearning.
Writing Work Is Deeply Relational.
Writing groups, retreats, workshops, and coaching are all deeply relational. What makes the work vibrate with possibility is that people open to each other, share truly how we’re showing up, and bring our full selves, including what’s pulling us down and lifting us up. We get to know each other, and we learn from each other. We both hold space and are held by others. We are not alone. We are part of a community of writers who are also attempting to act on callings to write. To write in ways that honor ourselves, connect with others, and intervene in the world.
The real life and vibrancy of this work is incredibly hard to put into words, especially because it’s so unlike typical transactional models in education and business. I feel the gaps in language each time registration rolls around, and I’m saying: “Hey, would you like to join a writing group?” Or: “Don’t forget a retreat is coming up.” Or “I’m here for coaching when the timing is right.” I wonder what people hear with these invitations. What images are called to mind? Do people feel pressure or truly the invitation to join?
Too often, it feels like I’m left with “asks” that fail to communicate the genuine desire, trust, openness, and relationality behind them. I struggle with sharing announcements because promotional materials fall flat or fail to represent the relational life of the work itself. Yet, I know it’s important to communicate. I’m a writer and writing teacher, after all (smile). So, I try and try again. And the many “try-try agains” teach me more about what I’m longing for. Right now, I’m especially longing for a way out of where we are (in often disconnected, quickly-passing, and extractive relations) toward where we could be (reciprocal, still boundaried, while honest and open relations, in which we all are recognized and resourced).
Could Registrations Be Relational, Too?
I share these reflections now because I’m in the midst of another registration season, trying to get the word out about summer writing support: groups, retreats, workshops, coaching, and more. And, again, I’m finding that the language isn’t getting at the heart of the work: how it’s always striving toward deeper relations and reciprocity, which includes relations and reciprocity around resourcing.
Even when the language approximates what I’d like to communicate, it’s long text (like this post—again, smile :-)). Across registration pages, I share descriptions of the sliding-scale registration model and say repeatedly:
Registration is offered on a sliding-scale basis, reflecting my commitments to accessibility and community care. It’s important both that I’m resourced to do this work and that no one is priced out of participating. Please pay what you can. If you are well-resourced, consider paying at the sustaining rate to keep this and other offerings open to anyone who finds them cost-prohibitive. Read the following descriptions of registration options, consider which fits your circumstances, and reach out with any questions.”
Yet, I keep finding that people register without reading and register within what we’re conditioned to do within systemic oppression—within white supremacy, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism, systems of ableism, and dehumanization. Specifically, that is to get the most value for the least money. To take the “best deal” and to register “for free,” if free is an option. And that extractive way of acting is so counter to both the relational spirit of these offerings and the sliding-scale pricing model I am committed to as part of striving toward anti-capitalism—and anti-oppression, more broadly.
I empathize with where people are coming from, because I live and work and relate within this oppressive conditioning, too. I recognize how much more I want and need to unlearn, particularly around the patterns I repeat that are characteristics of white supremacy culture. These patterns include rushing (or failing to read and consider before acting) and prioritizing quantity over quality (or thinking that “more” is better). The patterns are intertwined and invite lifelong learning and unlearning.
I’m learning, for example, that relating differently with resourcing means that I need an intimate relationship with my money and resourcing, which includes knowing how much I have and need and guarding against hoarding. It means business practices like tithing, sliding-scales, payment plans, and registration options that re-route access and other resources. And, throughout everyday life, it means that I ask questions regularly—as a spiritual practice—about where I’m dedicating resources. Where am I dedicating my money, time, attention, energy, credit, and other resources? Are those aligned with my commitments? I often catch myself acting on autopilot or following the ways I’ve done things in the past or the ways I’ve been taught to do things. There are so many moments to stop, to question, to reframe, and to unlearn!
I share a bit about my own learning and unlearning because I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what it means to be striving toward a relational ethic in resourcing. I know that sliding-scale registration models are unfamiliar to many, and they ask for a deeper level of engagement: reading and considering options and making decisions that are slower than quick clicks to get registered.
When I am inviting people to register, I am also asking for others to partner in relational practices and in unlearning so much of what we’ve been taught.
- How could I make clearer the ask of this co-creative partnership?
- How could registration itself interrupt quick clicks and broader social conditioning?
- How could I communicate that I don’t want registrations to be transactional or extractive, but an invitation into ongoing questions of care and community?
Yes, There Are Challenges, But Also Opportunities.
I get it, truly: the challenges are numerous. There are many challenges when reaching toward a relational registration model—from the limits of e-commerce software that isn’t designed for sliding-scales to the pressures of everyday life that make reading long text overly burdensome. And there are challenges of working within an extractive system in which many people with resources don’t see themselves/ourselves as being resourced or resourced enough.
Again, I get it: living within capitalism is living within precarity, which is seriously different depending on our positionalities. The risks are not the same for everyone. For example, whiteness adds layers of entitlement and hoarding behaviors that exacerbate the gaps in precarity. Recognizing these real differences, I recognize, too, that capitalism communicates again and again that none of us have or are “enough.” As a white cisgender woman, I regularly face feelings of not-enoughness, and truly, I empathize with feelings of not having or being enough. I know that many of us who are well-resourced don’t consider ourselves well-resourced because we are all one health crisis away from bankruptcy. None of us who are workers—who rely on income to support ourselves and our families—can have enough without actual community support, collective care, and social security. Without the very things eroded by capitalism. This is so related to state violence and, again, systemic oppression. The trouble is that if we all feel the sense of lack—of not-enoughness—then that feeling alone interrupts opportunities for intervention, including the use of the sliding-scale model.
Sliding-scales rely on people with more resourcing being willing to contribute more financially. Sliding-scales rely, too, on interrupting practices of whiteness and of white supremacy culture, including hoarding of resources and the related whiteness of wealth (with gratitude for Dorothy A. Brown’s research and writing). Additionally, sliding-scales rely on a willingness to relate with money, to consider how much we have and how much we need, and why. And sliding-scales rely on unlearning, on breaking from conditioned ways of being, and on acting differently than we are taught to do within capitalism. These are not simple asks, but they are relational ones. And they invite ongoing questions and everyday living aligned with seeking liberation.
It is hard to talk about money and resourcing. So often, my words are as flat as “this feels good” and “that feels bad.” Often, I feel an “ouch” before I can even reach for the language. So, when I think about what I’m learning and how I’m longing for sliding-scale registrations to work, I struggle with words. At best, I can say:
Thanks to everyone who is on this journey of learning and unlearning alongside me.
Thanks to everyone who is reconsidering resourcing and registrations.
Thanks to everyone who supports and opens to this deeply relational work.
Thanks to everyone who invigorates writing groups and spaces with relational potential.
Thanks to everyone who is reading and feeling and thinking and acting, too.
Thanks to everyone who is open to being in the m-e-s-s-y work of reaching for different relationships, including with registrations.
Returning to Relationality: Snapshots from Writing Groups
Anchored in longings—deep desires for registration to be relational and for sliding-scales to work—I pass the final words on my relations. Because I so struggle with finding language to describe relationality, perhaps visualizing it might help?
The following images are contributed by writing group members. Each offers a glimpse into the relational life of writing groups through people, spaces, and objects. Click through the slideshow for contributors’ names and descriptions each person has offered.
Deep gratitude for group members Briana Mohan, Candace Epps-Robertson, Cate Denial, Elaine Richardson (Dr. E), Jenny Veninga, and Ruth Nicole Brown for sharing these images. Together, may they give a glimpse into the relational life of writing groups—of people coming together when the timing aligns and aligning in shared agreement to relate around writing.
This post is written by Beth Godbee, Ph.D. for Heart-Head-Hands.com. Subscribe to the newsletter for upcoming announcements. These announcements include:
- Summer Writing Groups: Starting Tuesday 5/16 and Friday 5/19
- Upcoming Workshop “Planning Summer Writing Projects: Prioritizing Purpose over Productivity“: Wednesday 5/24
- Next Writing Retreat: Thursday 5/25
Because the slideshow doesn’t show full image descriptions, here they are in a more accessible form.
From Ruth Nicole Brown:
“grace is a green carnation
grace is the gift of returning to writing group when the timing is right
grace is growing after 2/13 in deeper and newly unimaginable ways”
From Dr. E (Elaine Richardson): “Screenshot of us during conversation.”
From Briana Mohan: “Here’s a photo of my writing and work space. I love that I have my pottery all around me so I can keep that creative, ‘best part’ of me always present, even when doing the most infuriating/boring of tasks. I also love the trees and bushes and natural light and the traffic is my version of ocean waves.”
From Jenny Veninga: “Here we are, three generations, at our beloved feminist bookstore, Bookwoman.”
From me (Beth Godbee): “This mug affirming ‘you are loved’ is so frequently used that it has multiple chips. It often accompanies me in writing spaces.”
From Cate Denial: “This is a photo of me taken sitting at my dining-room table where, as you know, I wrote for most of the pandemic.”
From Candace Epps-Robertson: “I’m sending a picture of my desk set-up for our writing retreat times (I usually have a big piece of paper in front of me to doodle and respond to your reflection prompts).”
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