Today marks one whole year since I started running my own writing workshops. Having produced them for teenagers, for undergraduates, for English language learners, but always for someone else, I wanted to create something I could host myself. It was also a way of connecting to other creatives while we were in lockdown, and when I'd made the decision to work freelance, full-time. I've found it to be interesting and rewarding, but that it's had some outcomes that I wasn't expecting.
Arguably, it’s easier to run workshops for other people. They can do the marketing, provide the platform, and get people to come along. In the case of those I ran within my English secondary school department, it was a completely captive audience.
But there’s something freeing about setting your own agenda. About creating something that fits with how you like to create and hope that it inspires others on their own journey. And that’s where the whole idea for ‘Scribbles’ came about.
Most of the time it's just me, writing away on my own.
It also came from my own insecurities as a writer. It took me years to start polishing and sending out my stories, to realise my dream of actually finishing a novel. Maybe it’s the working-class background, but it’s always been hard for me to consider something as ‘frivolous’ as creativity to be something serious and worthwhile.
So I wanted to reach out to other people who felt like me. Those who love creating but perhaps don’t have a lot of time to do it. Those who have begun their creative journey as writers or creators of things but who want the security and comfort of chatting to other people like them. Those who think words are great and would love to hang out with other people who agree.
Initially, my sessions took the form of a basic theme and a couple of writing ideas. But the more workshops I ran, the more I noticed something else was happening. This wasn’t just about giving people some ideas for a chunk of writing. It was doing more than that.
Creative stuff has a habit of leading to other stuff, and other ideas.
People started to tell me that the simple fact of regularly attending meant that they were taking their creative time more seriously. That they were spending more time on their projects, because they had the accountability of ‘showing up’ and talking to others about what they were doing. This side-effect was exactly why I’d started in the first place – so that people like me would feel more validated and encouraged.
More often that not, the exercises, prompts and writing sessions we do within the workshops feed into the existing projects of the participants. Because there is something simmering away behind the surface, our spontaneous writing acts do really helpful things, like fix that niggly plot problem they’ve been battling with, that pesky character who won’t sit still on the page, to finally breathe and become. I found that writers and other creatives were actually solving their problems through the process of attending the workshops. I didn’t see that coming.
Now I feel like I'm connecting creatives, helping them on their way. It's brilliant!
What I now have, after the first year, is exactly what I hoped it would be. A nurturing, small group of writers and creatives who encourage each other. A welcome environment where newcomers feel like they’ve stumbled upon something special. I knew I was creating workshops, but I didn’t imagine they would turn into a community.
Thanks so much to all the people who have already come along and I hope that I’ll meet many more of you in the future.
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