churchyardI learnt so much from running a recent workshop on ‘creative writing for self-discovery and fun.’ The ‘fun’ part is important, because, as somebody once said, if you ain’t enjoying it, what’s the point?’ And that goes for facilitator as much as participants.

Not that anyone wants to be asked at intervals, ‘are we having fun yet?’

Ad ‘fun’ is a relative word, analogous in a writing group to ‘engagement’ with the activity itself. You can normally gauge that by body language and level of concentration – puckered brows, chewed pen tops, languorous sighs, people getting up and leaving the room…

Even the gentlest bump-start can be frightening, of course – the look on some people’s faces when I asked them to ‘free-write’ mirrored my own when first introduced to the concept. We then went on to write from photographs, juxtaposing the visually stimulating with powerful written images, the familiar often made strange by the process – and potentially transformative.

It’s a powerful force, this creative writing for therapeutic purposes lark, like having a tiger by the tail, which is why it’s important to make people feel safe. In the private exchange between writer and page in a CWTP group, sharing the crafted outcome is entirely optional. Seamus Heaney talks of writing’s ability to ‘let down a shaft into real life,’ adding that shouting down a well shaft can ‘set the darkness echoing’ – and not everything quivering beneath the surface is negative; forgotten joys or half-remembered successes are often a glimmer in the subconscious away.

It was a privilege to hear what other people had written: the elegant economy of imagery, the imaginative scope, the sheer funniness of funny stories. In the confederacy of scribblers, we are all equal, vulnerable and exposed to the elements. Let’s give each other shelter. And have a bit of fun.


For more info on researching CWTP and training as a facilitator, visit @CWTP_Metanoia