Blog on Creative Writing Workshop and Conference in Birgunj, Nepal
March 9-13th, 2013
This is my fifth time attending Creative Writing Workshop since 2006. I have been to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Nepal with other core group members during the past few years. Birgunj has been my second trip in Nepal. I have had wonderful memories about the beauty of local natural scenery and the hospitality of local people. The experience in Birgunj has deepened the unforgettable impression of Nepalese culture and people.
Every time when I prepared to attend the creative writing workshop, I went through a very energetic and productive period of writing. The time constraints pushed me to engage in the writing, thinking, creating and rewriting cycles. My mind has been occupied by the inspiration of creative impulse and the floating images occurring from my life experience and my imagination. I was often tortured by the writer’s block at the very beginning. Facing the blank paper, my mind was full of unknown thoughts. It seemed so difficult to get started sometimes that I switched to absent-minded state. Usually, the nervous mind got relaxed during the time. Then the inspiration returned little by little and the writing process started from the moment I typed in words on the computer screen. Once I started writing, my hands would be led by the inner talk or ideas appearing in mind. As an effective way for me to keep writing creatively, free writing helped a lot.
Writing leads to rewriting. It becomes much easier to rewrite or revise once there are plenty of words on paper waiting to be reshaped and processed. Our brain works better under a little bit pressure but not so well under an enormous burden of the external or internal pressure. Facing a blank page brings much more pressure for a novice writer, which stops him or her to pick up courage and start writing. While facing a fully occupied written page, the brain is more relaxed and ready to cut dissatisfied parts and add more details from visualization. After some practice, gradually I come to understand the tips of overcoming writer’s block, which are free writing without self-judgment or self-criticism and fast writing without thinking too hard or worrying too much. Free writing and fast writing are the two best ways for me to start writing and keep on writing whenever I face the blank page. In addition, extensive reading and journal writing can also bring inspiration now and then.
Things are getting much easier when the first draft is ready to be read. Revision is cooking a ready-made dish with some sources and refreshing views. Inspiration only comes naturally after racking one’s brain. It is a bit like giving birth to a baby. Thinking is the pregnant process and inspiration is like the hard push. The new-born baby looks ugly as if the first draft seems rough and imperfect at the first glance. Revision and rewriting are the upbringing process, which take a lot of energy of the writer but the writing piece is taking shape after some hard work. In the creative writing workshop, every participant shows others his or her prepared writing as if showing the photos of the cute baby. Then the readers are supposed to give comments or suggestions to the writer.
The communication between the readers and the writers is crucial during the revision process. The writer can receive different opinions from different readers and find out the weaknesses or shortcomings in his or her writing as well as the positive feedback about the writing. The whole communication process is carried out in a friendly and helpful atmosphere. No one should be laughed at or belittled during the mutual comment process. It is often an interesting process to discover how your readers understand your story or poems in a slightly different way according to their own life experiences and cultural backgrounds. If the writing touches the heart of the reader, it can be shared in experience universally no matter which culture it might represent. There are a lot of commonality among human life experiences and emotions. Cultural differences bring diversified settings and environment into the story and show various mentality of the main character, but the basic emotions are in common.
In our creative writing workshop we worked as a team. We read one another’s story and poems, and then we gave our comment to the writer. I could often learn a lot from my readers and realize how to revise my work. For example, as core group members, we were required to write about a picture called Nighthawks. It was interesting to discover that everyone saw the same picture in different ways. Although the main theme was the same about solitude or loneliness, the writers in different ages and from different cultural backgrounds did illustrate the picture in their own way. It was inspiring to read various poems written about the famous painting Nighthawks. The universal emotion of human being was very influential and powerful. Writing from observing a picture was also an effective way to learn to observe carefully and write something out of box. The picture was the stimulator and the restraint. We need to observe the characters in the picture and we also need to think imaginatively out of the picture. As creative writers, we should not be locked into the picture itself like the main characters in it, but we should jump out of the frame and write something unseen.
Talking about my presentation during the concurrent session, it had attracted a roomful of audience and most of them were students in the university. They were eager to listen to my talk and I could feel their enthusiasm from their eyes. I divided my talk into two parts. The first part was about what creative writing meant to me. I thought creative writing had made me love writing much more than before. It was a process of learning to write and also a process of self-discovery. Whenever I tried to create a character, my life experience and people who were familiar to me were jumping into my mind. I thought creative writing could not come from an empty space. The seeds of a story must lie somewhere in our daily life. Through reflection and observation, stories would take shape in some way or another. The second part was about activities which could be used in English writing classes of different levels. Even some very simple activity could lead learners to create unexpectedly beautiful poems through right guidance. For example,
‘When I think of …
I can see…
I can smell…
I can taste…’
One girl in my presentation room wrote about sunset in the form of the above simple pattern. It was so beautifully written that I could not help offering my praise to her in front of the audience. Her poem really inspired me to use the simple-form poem activity with more advanced students because their imagination and language expression were more interesting in a way. Although the form could be simple, the ideas and the feelings were thought-provoking without limitation. Once learners knew how to play with words within the restraints of the form, their thoughts and imagination could be as flexible as the flowing water which could be filled into any shape. I felt the most rewarding experience of doing creative writing was that the potential inner creativity of oneself could be stimulated in the process of word play. The sense of achievement was fulfilling for most English learners. To find your own voice and express your inner thoughts in a foreign language were very challenging as well as exciting. The happiness of composing a short poem or a short story was so strong that the painful producing process seemed bearable.
In a word, the Birgunj Creative Writing Workshop and Conference were very successful and unforgettable with the help of many organizers and participants. I believed that there would be more creative writers appearing in Birgunj who would love to share their stories and their poems with the rest of the world in both Nepalese language and the world language English. Let’s write and enjoy!