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!

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