“When are you nurturing creativity?” asked Caroline Jeyaratnam-Joyner to a group of us at a workshop for community artists. “And when are you imposing your own vision?” We all considered this, and it struck a chord with me.
The question rattled around in my head.
Spare Tyre, which creates arts projects for people at risk of not being heard, ran the workshop. The organisation’s approach is powerful. It’s about empowering vulnerable individuals to find a role in an arts project. As a designer, a creator and a decision-maker.
The question rattled for one main reason. It reminded me that I feel I have to persuade people that writing creatively with others matters. That collaborating to make literary projects can be fun, rather than just worthy. That it can be as challenging to work with people who dismiss contemporary poetry, as it is to engage in the craft of writing itself.
It’s true that whenever I mention my research, or work with a new group of elders, I justify what I want to do before I begin. I can’t nurture others, if I’m so focused on getting my point across.
My fellow Spare Type workshop attendees helped me think this through. In the future, could I offer a project structure to let others work out how to react? And my practiced lines about the importance of writing and wellbeing, and offering the space for others to find their voices? Maybe I could express it non-verbally. Through experience rather than my words.
It follows the writing advice we’re told time and again. In your work, you should show, not tell.