Saturday, 30 October 2010

Creative Writing - Not For the Faint-Hearted?

On Thursday 21st October, I attended one of a series of creative writing sessions/workshops, 'Not For the Faint-Hearted'. It was run by writers Ellen de Vries (who I know fairly well) and James Burt (who I didn't know at all), so I only had a vague idea of what to expect. The idea was that the group would be presented with various prompts and everyone had to read what they wrote.

Not for the faint-hearted? Perhaps. For many, sharing their creative work is practically torture. However, having participated in various types of writing workshop before, I knew I would be able to share something. I have to admit that, in an enclosed, safe environment, I don't mind reading my creative work. I can also usually write something. It might not be very good, I might not be very happy with it, but there is usually something there on the page in front of me.

My main problem was that I hadn't attended any kind of workshop for ages. I felt rather out of practice but at the same time I wanted to force myself to attend, to put myself in a creative environment and produce something. Anything. With real life getting in the way I hadn't really written anything new for way too long.

The part of workshops that I both love and hate is the feedback part. Love, because it's helpful to analyse what you've produced and to think about the reactions of others, particularly other writers. But it's scary, because there's the truth right in front of you. There's the readers' reaction, and every writer who wants to be published someday in some form, somewhere, has to allow for the readers' response. It makes you think about your work, even if you don't want to make any specific changes that have been suggested.

However, what was interesting, and different, about the 'Not For the Faint-Hearted' workshop was that no feedback was given, and no apologies were allowed. I'd never had to share writing in a workshop situation under those conditions. It was strange, slightly scary, and ultimately rather freeing. And this freedom is exactly what Ellen and James were hoping to achieve. They aimed to promote an atmosphere of creativity, inspiration, freedom and fun, where people can be open to write whatever comes to mind when they are faced with the prompts. And it seemed to succeed. I personally found it quite difficult not to explain, apologise or otherwise censor myself and/or my writing. But it worked for me. I was inspired, I did write, and I did read. As did everyone else. It was a relaxed, creative environment, with interesting prompts. Another unusual point was that all the prompts were photos, just found on the internet. It was amazing how much you could create in just three or five minutes staring at a photo. The responses were a varied mixture. I understand that in a previous 'Not For the Faint-Hearted' workshop Ellen and James actually used cake as a writing prompt, with participants having to think about taste, texture, smell and visuals! Different, creative and fun!

I'm very pleased I attended, and plan to attend others in the future. It may not be for the faint-hearted, but these workshops are for anyone looking for a fun, interesting and inspiring evening of writing!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

National Poetry Day 2010

Today is National Poetry Day, and the theme is home. This struck a particular chord with me this year, for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that I have just returned home after almost three weeks on holiday. It felt like we had been away for ages, much longer than three weeks. This was mainly due to the fact that we were on a cruise to Alaska, and the atmosphere and experience were so unlike anything we'd previously experienced that we were able to observe and take in everything, make the most of every day and enjoy every minute.

The second reason I am particularly keen on the theme of home this year, and which also added to the overall experience and enjoyment of our trip, is the fact that the holiday was actually our honeymoon. Returning home, even though we already lived together, was almost as strange and unusual, fun and exciting as the trip itself. Entering our home for the first time as a married couple was as lovely and as significant as moving in together in the first place, and felt almost as important as the wedding and honeymoon. Although it was a return to a reality, it was a new and different reality.

I was also lucky enough to attend a National Poetry Day event today. Local poet Maria Jastrzebska was poet in residence at Pen To Paper, a wonderful, local shop selling all manner of pens, ink, paper, journals and notebooks. Maria had poems posted in the window and on the walls inside the shop, all on the subject of home. Visitors were invited to add their comments to a collection on what home means to them, and add their details to a spreadsheet of where people arrived in Brighton from. To cap this all off, every hour from 11 to 4, on the hour, Maria read poetry to the assembled masses. The icing on the cake was that Pen To Paper were celebrating their 10th anniversary as well as National Poetry Day. It was a lovely, creative and inspiring event.

Therefore, to mark today, I have attempted my own poem on the theme of home:

Home is us -
Returning on a BA flight
To a grey London lunchtime,
British accents, tube strikes,
Tea and pound coins
Resting heavy and strange
In hands now used to dollar bills.

Home is us -
Searching for a parking space
And entering our flat,
Our comfy sofa,
The space just for us,
Cooking our favourite meal
And opening a bottle of wine.

Home is us -
Searching stores for home-ware,
Photo albums and shiny toasters,
Coffee table books, fresh flowers
And holiday mementoes.
Making a flat a home,
Fit for a newly married couple.