The value of connecting kindness with curiosity

So, as I write this I’m still on a high from last week which was pretty nerve-wracking, exciting, mind-blowing and so fulfilling, all at the same time. What am I on about you may ask? Well, I bit the bullet and delivered my first ever creative writing workshop!

From a seed of an idea last year to putting it all together, doing the marketing, working out the tasks and making sure I had enough content to talk to people about, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. But it was actually when I delivered it and watched the participants really go for it, in front of my eyes, that gave me the most satisfaction –  this was exactly what I’d hoped for!

They approached each task with gusto, some despite calling themselves ‘none-writers’ and what they produced left me lost for words (I know, unusual right?!).

All it had taken was a little direction and their unleashed imagination and hey presto they were on their way into a world of make believe or recalling childhood memories so vividly, I was right there with them.

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‘I loved it! Never thought I was good at / particularly enjoyed writing, but you made it a joy.’ Miriam

What I loved about it was how everyone’s style of writing was so different, so individual and unique and it gave me a real insight into their personalities, which is exactly what I think writing should do, be driven by the way you interpret the world and create that sense of awe to the listener / reader.

Anne Lamott, Author of Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life, puts it better than me:

‘All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers I think; to help others have this sense of wonder.’

I was just as inspired by their descriptive, emotional and vivid stories as they were by the tasks given to them, I even learned a new word: Fibonacci – A mathematical sequence of numbers recognised in nature!

The evening went so well, conversation flowed about writing and we enjoyed some delicious cake provided by the lovely Miriam’s Kitchen Table. My participant’s left ‘buzzing’, feeling proud of themselves, relishing having had an inspiring, creative few hours and understanding that they just needed that little nudge and some ideas to get going. I also gave them an 8-page work-book, a small sample of more tasks and tips I’ve learned along the way to further encourage their writing.

‘I enjoyed it all, every task was of benefit, I’m inspired to get started on my writing journey!’ Carol

I also left on a high, with a head full of  ideas (as per!) and couldn’t sleep that night wondering where I could take the workshop next and how it could grow. One idea that came to me was after listening to Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast episode last week interviewing Grace Graham, the Princes Trust Ambassador of the year.

Grace had had a really tough life growing up but is now in a good place and has set up her own business called Workspa, she spoke so eloquently about her struggles and how she’d overcome them, it reminded me of when I used to work with the Princes Trust when I worked at Leeds United. The Club supported the 12-week young person’s development programme, providing a room to be used under the South Stand and funding towards the programme, culminating in a celebration event at the end. It was brilliant to watch the group grow and become so much more confident by the end of the programme and develop a positive view of the future with skills to really help them find work.

It got me thinking about whether my writing workshop could be of any use within that programme, I’m going to contact them and see, because just seeing how proud my participants were at the end of those few hours, I’m sure that feel-good-factor could work really well when working with disadvantaged young people and help build their confidence.

Plus, it comes back to my guiding word of the year ‘Value’ – I want to add value wherever I can and as well as trying to make a small living for myself, I always want to give something back too – nothing feels as good as supporting other people, your community.

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This then got me thinking about something else, an idea for those creatives out there who may have been doing their craft for years, have built up all the skills and knowledge but are maybe too fearful to put their designs out there yet to sell, put pictures online or even admit to others what they do for fear of failure.

What if by teaching someone else your skill, it in-turn builds your confidence too?

What If that increased confidence then gives you the courage to take your creative passion further? How cool would that be? This could in-fact be a win-win for everyone!

I’m not a qualified creative writing teacher, I’ve never ‘taught’ properly, anything in my life, I just had a passion to share the benefits of writing.

I wanted to enable others to feel that pleasure and satisfaction of producing something, losing themselves in a story and I know that anybody can, despite who may have told them otherwise or how much their own fear is holding them back. Added to this I designed simple creative writing tasks, linking into different techniques, such as syncing more closely with your senses, that I thought could work as prompts to get the writing process going and luckily, they worked.

Yes, along the way, I’ve had doubts; Who the hell am I to teach creative writing?

I’m not an expert, and I’m really not, BUT I do have a 20-year-plus history of jobs that were deeply engorged in writing, and I had the diary-jotting, poetry-scrawling, story-telling and now novel-writing experience stacking up quietly in the background.

But above all else, I have this huge nagging voice to share all of this, spread the joy of taking part in creative activities and watch people thrive through living a more enriched life, from a place of kindness,…. of wanting to help.

This is why I set up the workshop in the first place, sinking in to my values for The Curious Creative Club of Engage, Encourage, Enrich and Empower which all ultimately equate to adding value.

As I got into the flow of the workshop, I found I did actually have the knowledge to delve into a deeper conversation. We discussed different writing triggers and tactics for inspiration and I identified the unique qualities of their writing, making them aware of the skills they had shown.

For example, Carol used great dialogue and humour to convey the characters in her story, Neil had the great imagination to link three pictures and build them very quickly into a story and Miriam’s descriptions in her writing brought about an instant emotional connection for us to what she was feeling. As the workshop went on, I could have talked about writing for hours, buoyed by their enthusiasm and I loved every second.

Unbeknown to me whilst writing this I’ve just discovered that it is Random Acts of Kindness day on February the 17th – another great reason to share your talent as I’ve been talking about above and as Jenny Alexander from Writing Magazine has suggested in her free-range writing article (pg 28 of the March Issue), also a good topic to use as a creative workout for your writing (see some of the prompts below this article if you would like to try this.)

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And speaking of random acts of kindness, I want to thank Miriam Leece, who took a chance and let me run the workshop at her gorgeous café. Miriam is a passionate advocate of all things creative too, having a deep love of art and wants to ignite that creative community spirit within her cafe;

‘Nothing makes me happier than seeing this place used as a setting where people can connect and grow.’

We need many people like Miriam in the world!

So, if you’ve ever thought of sharing your creative passions with other people, whether that be as a business idea or as a volunteer, I say ‘Do it!’, so long as you have done your homework and make sure you know your subject inside out; you’ll find it extremely rewarding.

Both routes are valuable and have different benefits, giving you a new direction for your creative interest, sharing your unique knowledge and boosting your own confidence along the way, but as a volunteer you’ll also get that added bonus pleasure of knowing you’ve supported someone in a different way, perhaps helped someone realise their creative dream without them even knowing it was in there? It doesn’t get much more satisfying than that in my book.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

I’m busy planning for my next  ‘Playing with Writing’ workshop, if you would like to find out more and register your interest, please click here.

Random Acts of Kindness Writing exercises: As written in the March 2019 Edition of Writing  Magazine:

Memoir Prompts:

Jot down a few ideas for the following, whatever comes to mind and remember to stick to the time limit to help you get going and not overthink it.

  • When did someone you didn’t know do or say something that helped?
  • When did someone you know well do something surprising that helped?
  • When did you do something to help a stranger?
  • When did you do something surprising to help someone you know?

Write the story of one of these (15 minutes)

Poetry Prompt:

Think about a time when you had to be cruel to be kind, for example putting a terminally ill pet to sleep or when you’ve had to step back and watch your child make their own mistakes to learn. There’s a wonderful poem about this called For Julia, In The Deep Water by John N Morris.

Your poem will be the story of someone who has to do something cruel to be kind. What do they have to do? Why is it the kindest thing? Write some notes about the person and their dilemma. Imagine you are this character and take 5 minutes to write the story in prose – just as it comes, in the first person, ‘I…’ Using prose warm-ups like this for writing poetry can help you feel your way into the voice of the poem.

Next, take 15 minutes to write your poem, choosing either first person as in the warm up or third person, he/she…’

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