The Expressive and Creative Writing Workshop: An outlet for recovery

By Grant J Everett

Each Monday, Buckingham House at Surry Hills offers a group called the Expressive and Creative Writing Workshop. Run by award-winning poet ARIEL RIVEROS since March 2017, the Workshop is a gathering where writers of all genres and experience levels can express their creativity with a friendly, supportive group of like-minded wordsmiths. A recent survey showed that everybody who attends the Workshop found it to be a positive space that nurtured their craft and provided them with essential technical help.

On the day Panorama attended, there were five participants: George, Nicole, Pia, Larry and Ariel himself, though the group can swell to as many as fifteen people on busy days. The Workshop started with Ariel asking the group if they’d like to share anything they’ve been working on, followed by an opportunity to show off any literature that has had an impact on them recently.

The exercise for each group is chosen the week before, allowing the participants to do a bit of brainstorming in the meantime, and each person had their own personal notebooks for the day’s exercises, allowing them to keep a record of all their involvement. Today’s task was to write a speech or monologue about something important in their lives, the sorts of things that get them out of bed, and to do it within 15 minutes. As the Workshop is held in a quiet room, the participants were able to concentrate.

For starters, Pia wrote about how her father is at the core of her support network, and how much she values the time they spend with each other. George wrote about how his hearing aid is actually more of an irritant than a help, and discussed his love of life drawing at the National Art School, and why it’s one of the highlights of his routine (Pia asked for some details so she could look into taking part). Larry wrote about his participation in a Library group and a project he is going to run about a many-authored story (which is going well).

Ariel also participated in the exercise, writing about his view on celebrating birthdays, especially where mud cake is involved (i.e., every birthday ever).

The inner workings

The Workshop is designed to help participants build on more than their writing skills: like with other Flourish Australia groups, the Workshop provides social contact, builds on your existing skill set, and generally offers a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. In addition to that, attending the Expressive and Creative Writing Workshop can be an excellent outlet. In case you don’t know, an “outlet” is a healthy method of venting frustration, anger, stress and other negative emotions. Popular outlets include physical exercise, including anything from punching a pillow to martial arts, talking to somebody you trust, or doing something creative. As you may have guessed, the Workshop provides the latter outlet.

Writing your difficulties down on paper can be a great way to really get a handle on them, and you might even brainstorm new ways to overcome them in the process. So, if you are feeling depressed, you could channel your feelings into writing a sad story, or you could turn your anger and frustration into a funny rant from a fed-up character. Not only is it more healthy to put your pain onto a page than letting it swirl around your brain, but readers will be able to pick up on the emotions you’ve invested, and this can give your words even more impact. In effect, feeling terrible could help you to produce a powerful story!

A dozen styles, countless stories

While the facilitator of the Workshop, Ariel, is primarily a free-verse poet who also pens “flash” fiction (short stories up to 1,000 words), the participants who attend the group all have their own specific strengths, literary interests, writing styles and genres.

‘We have some really talented authors, and discovering people’s skills is always a pleasant surprise.’ Ariel told us. ‘The group members all have interesting stories to share, and so many styles. When it comes to formats, we have a real variety: one participant is interested in writing plays, another is a sonnet specialist, and George has spent 8 years writing a quizzical work: it’s one continual sentence that runs for 57,000 words.’

Jack Kerouac, eat your heart out!

What can participants expect to get out of the Workshop, exactly?

‘Sharing your work with your peers and receiving supportive feedback is at the heart of the Workshop,’ Ariel explained. ‘The group are encouraged to “be themselves,” as this is a space to explore your creativity. It’s a place of no judgement. The group can all empathise with each other’s hardships.’

Does this Workshop sound good? Don’t take our word for it! Head over to Surry Hills and see for yourself. If you’re interested in joining, contact our friendly staff at Buck House on (02) 9393 9240 to find out more.

‘Please, come and join our class,’ Ariel said. ‘You are all welcome!’

Flourish Australia
Buckingham House, 43-45
Buckingham Street, Surry
Hills, NSW 2010
(02) 9393 9240

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