Giving a creative writing workshop is exciting. But it can also be draining if you let it. In spite of my best efforts, I sometimes feel tired and wired for hours afterwards. It’s exciting to hear people share their stories, sometimes for the first time. It’s stimulating to discuss books, words and ideas. And it’s a little anxiety-making to know that people are putting their trust in you to help them tell their stories.
Naturally, it can be a little overwhelming at times, so I’ve put a system in place to help me deal with the pressure, so I can give the best classes possible to my students, and so I can be civil to my poor beleaguered mother and husband afterwards.
1. Before the Workshop
I leave myself plenty of time to get to the venue, so I can set up. Someone will always come early, so it’s good not to leave them out in the cold. It means I can start the class in a calm frame of mind. While I’m travelling to the venue, I play what I consider to be my lucky song, Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.
2. During the Workshop
I write along with the class. I write little scraps of ideas for stories, I join in the exercises I’m giving them, and I sometimes write thoughts about what’s going on around me. It releases the pressure valve. I also drink plenty of water, and relish my tea and biscuit at the break.
3. After the Workshop
This bit is particularly important. After all the excitement, I need to decompress. My favourite ways to decompress involve either trash television and a sugary treat, or light conversation with a good friend over a glass of wine. But sometimes I don’t get to decompress in the way I want. When that happens, I just spend some time writing about what happens, so I can saviour the memories of the workshop and let myself feel the satisfaction of a job well done.
Feel free to share some of your own writing rituals, whether you’re a writer or a giver of creative writing workshops.