Last Friday was a unique day for me. I was helping a group of authors bring their books to fruition; it was a training course put on by a business development organisation I’m part of and you might think that business people writing books would be a dry, sombre experience. It wasn’t; it just wasn’t. What it was was a riot of laughter, creativity, bawdy humour and excellent biscuits. Poets may be mad, artists liable to cut off parts of their body and sculptors dangerous with knives, but last Friday showed that wherever authors gather so creativity and laughter will follow.
There were revelations, when talking about people to write the foreword for the book one of those gathered said “I know Jeff Beck, but does anyone know him?” Those sitting around the table looked on incredulously (if you are young and this needs explaining Jeff Beck is one of the best guitarists of his generation), but our speaker wasn’t finished. “Or there’s always David I suppose.” We ask “David?” “Yes, Bowie, David Bowie.” If I have to explain that one I am speaking to the wrong audience.
There were surprises. A book on how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse by a survival expert (I’m hoping this title turns up at the ‘Walker Stalker’ convention next February). There was also a book on how to be green and leave a low carbon footprint from someone who leases cars and there was a book on how to run a successful coffee shop by people who are running successful coffee shops. Ok, I confess that wasn’t a surprise, but I’m loving the title, “The Daily Grind”.
There were a couple of exercises that authors and other wordsmiths out there might like to try. The first is to give your book, poem or prose to someone you don’t know, let them read it for five minutes and then tell you what they think the piece is about. An excellent way of knowing if what you think you are saying is being picked up by your readership. Another great exercise was the ‘on the BBC couch’ role play. This is where you have to do an interview, no longer than three minutes, and in that time get your message across about your book. This crystalises your thinking and helps you get to the essence of your meaning; for those of us prone to waffle and an illuminating process to go through.
All of this may be of interest, but what I really want to leave you with is the idea of what bringing creative people together does. We would freely acknowledge that we sit at our keyboards or with pen and paper in hand pouring forth thoughts, ideas and literary pictures in a solitary existence. Usually the only place that I meet those who peddle words is at festivals and open mic nights, but I urge you to find a collective of authors, poets and storytellers and spend a day together. Exchange ideas, swop new words, push each other harder and find better ways to express your thoughts. Do it all in the spirit of the ‘Inklings’ (Tolkien, CS Lewis et al) and find common ground, behave in an outrageous fashion and form deeper friendships and camaraderie. Your writing will be all the better for it.
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