Last weekend I was in Bristol (city of aggressive drivers and confusing road signs…), hosting the Level 1 Writing for Wellbeing course for the Orchard Foundation with my colleagues Fiona Hamilton and Pete Weinstock. We met at the Tobacco Factory in a room the colour of warm sage, with a gathering of participants who were interested in our theme for a range of reasons; their own personal development, exploring writing as part of their work, or discovering how wellbeing, their own and others’ could be enhanced with pen and paper.
In a rich round of feedback at the end we invited people to write a list of six things they would like to say about the weekend, two of which we invited them to share out loud around the table. Comments included surprise at how much fun they had had, how much laughter there had been in the room, and how easy it had been to write poems using unfamiliar forms such as the pantoum, acrostic and alphapoem.
In the course of two days we heard real life events rendered as thrillers, murder mysteries, Mills and Boon romance and fairy tale. Those who had arrived mildly cynical commented that it had been easy to express thoughts and feelings on the page, using the containment of form and time. Those who had arrived wary and nervous noticed that they had relaxed. Feelings of enjoyment, excitement and purpose were expressed in the room as people reflected on how they might apply some of the techniques to which we had introduced them, whether in their work or in life in general.
Here are my six pieces of feedback. If I were sitting around the table with others I would share 2 and 5.
- A weekend course like this one can open your eyes to the possibilities of writing for wellbeing, both for tutors and facilitators.
- The learning never stops. As a facilitator I love to be surprised by how the participants respond to and interpret our exercises.
- It is invaluable to work with a co-host. Pete, Fiona and I formed two double acts, keeping our participants stimulated and entertained.
- Good coffee is necessary to a successful day (we had lots).
- I am always moved and delighted by people’s willingness to share their writing, and by the sense of trust that can be established among a group of strangers.
- If my own life were to be described as a fairy tale it would be The Sleeping Beauty. I am grateful to Pete for making me think about that.