A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of the short writing tasks that we have built into our modules – including into seminar time – in order to promote ‘write to learn’ approaches at our university. Recently I asked a colleague from Plymouth to share some of the activities that she has used in her brilliant and engaging conference workshops (ALDinHE and WDHE). She has graciously shared them with me – and I am sharing them with you:
“Like a good magpie, most of the ideas are of course stolen gems, based mostly on the work of Bronwyn Davies (her book Doing Collective Biography is really practical and inspiring), and Jane Speedy's collaborative writing toolbox which she is currently developing for ESCalate.
Basically, the point is to write and share and then rewrite.
Imposing limits seems to focus the writing better, and some of the tricks are to insist that the participants write in sentences of no more than three words, or write( their life?) in no more (and no less than) 50 words.
Alternatively they can be asked to write a short piece (in a set time) around a particular theme (ie mis/recognition, fear, school, etc.) with the express aim of attempting to capture and evoke (in an embodied sense) a particular moment in time.
The emphasis in this kind of workshop is not just on the writing, but also on the audience. Therefore the listeners should be aware that they have a responsibility to critique and comment (positively) on the writing with the aim of helping the writer edit out all superfluous information. Bronwyn maintains that even if you are listening intently, your mind will begin to wander the minute the writing rings untrue or irrelevant. This is the moment when the writer needs to be made aware that they have 'lost' their audience.
I have to say, the writing I produced in her workshop was the most intense and emotionally dense I have ever done… “