The ‘Ways With Words’ festival is just around the corner now. It’s an extraordinary meeting place and melting pot of ideas, concepts, images, dreams and visions. They all find their expression in the virtual black ink scratches, that nowadays, we make mostly via our computer keyboards.
Often when I teach creative writing I talk about the importance of writers having contact with the full breadth of their emotional life, in order to imbue the words on the page with those qualities. Muriel Rukeyser said that one writes in order to feel, but it’s also true, I believe, that one reads in order to feel. There’s a direct line of experiencing that runs like a flowing river from a writer into their characters, and then into the reader. This is the process of creative expression. This is what ‘Ways With Words’ is all about.
I run ‘Wild Words’ courses- www.wildwords.org- ‘a pioneering approach to working in a psychological, body-based, and nature-based way with writers’. I’m going to be presenting my work at ‘Ways With Words’, and leading a workshop. We’ll be going outside to explore the ideas of creative block and creative flow by using the metaphor of the river. We’re lucky enough to have stunning natural environment to work with at Dartington, complete with flowing water (we hope!) And if it’s dried up, well, there’s a metaphor in that too!
The ‘Ways With Words’ festival embraces writers and readers of poetry and prose, fact and fiction. It’s a celebration of the human ability to tell narratives. This ability, I believe, is not just a nice addition to our lives, it is fundamental to our health and happiness. Maya Angelou had it right when she said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. But equally, there is no greater joy than in the act of liberating a story from within. We tell stories to process emotion, to gain perspective, to find meaning, to inform and to entertain. For me, the form of the writing is not so important, I am just always delighted to see how we are naturally craftspeople of the highest order when it comes to words.
Don’t get me wrong, certainly writing is a craft to be practiced. However, we do not start from nowhere. Have you ever heard a drunk person in a pub tell a riveting story, or found that an anecdote from your day just slipped of the tongue, fully-formed? Human beings are metaphorical creatures, born storytellers.
So, if you’re coming to Ways With Words to watch writers on stage, by all means revere their talents, but also remember you own. And equally important, remember that all the writers and speakers are human too. We’re all beavering away in our rooms right now to prepare for our audience. We’re all a little nervous about how we will be received. For every writer, amateur or professional, it’s the same. We face the scary blank first page with every new commission, and with the opening lines of every talk. Then we have to just trust that the stories flow… See you there!
This article was first published on The Ways With Words website in June 2014.