Last Thursday on World Book Day I visited Loudoun Academy to speak to third years about the magic of reading and writing.
As I was putting together my presentation beforehand I felt an old part of me come back to life. This was my first in-person creative writing workshop since pre-lockdown times (my last one in a school was February 2020, a month before the world shut down). Being ‘back out there’ made me realise how much I had missed connecting with a live audience.
The best bit of workshops is when I set the pupils a writing task and they come alive with ideas. My wish at school workshops is that I leave the participants feeling excited by words and it was great to see the pupils scribbling down ideas, (in some cases half-written stories), and chat to one another (and me) about characters and plots they planned to develop. I know from continued contact with the school library assistant that a lot of them have kept writing their stories and it is great to see. And nothing beats the buzz of walking in to a room and seeing a member of the audience half- way through reading your book (a teacher in this case) and then getting to chat to them about it afterwards.
I know I’m not alone in feeling that the past couple of years have brought changes that have felt unsettling and unpredictable, and just when the world was trying to snap back to some kind of ‘normal’, economic pressures have created even more unpredictability. In a fast-paced performance driven society I hate how we often don’t give each other or ourselves enough permission to slow down and catch our breath. This is a stressful time of year for many people in education and I love that schools allow pupils time out to participate in workshops like this. Being able to get lost for an hour or so in your imagination and being allowed to daydream has never felt quite so important and delivering this workshop was a big reminder to me how important expressing yourself creatively can be, and how it can bring so much joy, without needing to have any kind of measurable outcome.
Think about how you spend your downtime (and what helps you unwind). So much of that is connected with creative storytelling; whether that is getting lost in a book, laughing with loved ones recounting silly events, becoming absorbed in a compelling TV series of film, listening to uplifting music, playing a complicated computer game, seeing a photograph or piece of art or creating art that makes you feel.
I think the creative storytellers of the world keep it a brighter place, and I hope those kids continue to understand the power of their words and keep writing their stories.