On Thursday next week I embark on another three-day gig as on-site mentor for a writers’ retreat. The commitment involves running a couple of workshops, some evening sessions – ice-breakers, readings etc. – and individual 1-2-1s with the participants.
Based on my experiences thus far, I am probably looking forward to the 1-2-1s most of all. It is both fascinating and stimulating to talk through their projects with other writers, trying to help by making observations, suggestions; often asking the most naïve of questions can unlock knowledge they already possess, knowledge that just needs an external prompt to be freed.
Perhaps it’s all a question of perspective, one that’s external and distanced. Both conversation and the introduction to various writing exercises can help provide people with an alternative view on their work and writing in general, both in terms of content and style. The goal is being able to act as a catalyst for some kind of ‘lightbulb moment’ for someone else – and talking is often the medium. “I never write poetry” someone said at the last retreat; two days later they’d drafted three pieces!
An epiphany can manifest itself at any time. Yesterday I was talking to someone about some of my work (an upcoming collection of short stories) and it was during that conversation I realised how much I liked my work and how good I believe some of it to be. It was an unexpected opportunity to articulate self-esteem, a vital component for a writer to keep going.
Hopefully I’ll be able to stimulate something similar in a few days’ time; to provoke a thought, an idea, to open a crack to allowing other writers to see something new and illuminating in their writing or in their process of writing.