Writing to Make Change Happen
“What matters is a plurality of language as a guarantee of a truth that is not merely partial.” Italo Calvino
Our week of writing to change the world was magical. I fell asleep on the ferry on the way home and woke up when the boat crashed into a large wave, just before we got into port. With that harsh return to the real world, I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard Oz. The course was an adventure and everyone I met taught me something vital about changing the world. Now I just need to keep writing.”
Working collaboratively is hard. Writing collaboratively is harder. As people brought up in a fiercely individualistic society, it’s easy to believe our impact in the world can best be measured through individual actions. As writers, we are told our natural habitat is an ivory tower, cut off from the world outside, dreaming up worlds in isolation.
Writing to Make Change Happen was about asking the kind of questions that break down these (mostly) white, male, middle class, individualistic narratives. Were we to depose such values, for example, what could we substitute them with? And how can we reinvent the structure and the tools underpinning the injustices we’re trying to overthrow in order to truly tackle the most pressing issues of our time and work towards a more equal and more just future? Collaboration was the answer we danced around in this deeply transformative week.
Through five days of writing and thinking collaboratively I learnt about urgency, because change needs to start now. I learnt about patience, because starting now doesn’t mean I will see tangible results anytime soon. I learnt about self-worth as a principle that is achieved through collective action because the voice of the writer carries the hopes and fears of her community.
Surrounded by 14 other voices, some more willful and articulate, others so utterly other from mine, my initial reaction was to retreat inwards, and to let others take over. Thanks to the generosity and sharpness of two experienced facilitators I instead marvelled at the thrill of creating a temporary, egalitarian community in which everyone’s role became indispensable. They turned a bunch of aspiring writers into a band of warriors fit for working in a group, ready to take on the world. And make change happen together.
We need to ensure our voices are different, and multiple, and loud. Collaboration reminds us we are stronger as a group. That we all have something to give to a project.
I left Lumb Bank knowing that our collective voice needs to be diverse, irreverent, compassionate and loud. I left believing in our ability as writers to shift the way we think of ourselves as a group through linguistic articulation. I left knowing that through confrontation with and belonging to a community, we are stronger and more determined forces of change.
“I applied for Writing to Make Change Happen while teaching full time. This was my way of staying connected to my creativity, to my dreams of using my writing to bring about some kind of difference in this world. To be accepted on the course was an acknowledgment that my voice mattered. The course reaffirmed that my voice matters as I was able to unearth my voice and strengthen it amongst fellow writers and travelers who are on the same path of fighting to bring about a more peaceful, equal, just and sustainable World.
Back home, lost in a fog of responsibilities and doubts, I only have to remember my time at Lumb Bank, the connections made to feel energised once more to pick up my pen and write. Write to make change happen.’
What does collaboration look like? I never expected to leave a writing course, not only having written something unlike anything I have written before (for 2 voices, made entirely of ‘found’ text) but having helped devise a piece of theatre, in 3 acts, with 15 others which included the audience as equally as any of the ‘players’. On arrival I was broken and depressed at current happenings in the world. I left still realistic, but with a buoyed sense of purpose, which others have commented is rubbing off on them. I am moved, and so grateful for this week with two real elders steering the ship.
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