Wednesday 21 March 2018

What I Learned From Writing Camp

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Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop: a week of writing boot camp, lectures and roundtables with some of the best literary minds in the U.S. My particular section was new: Literary Hybrid/Book Arts – a combination of nonfiction, poetry, fiction and visual arts through bookmaking.

I wrote, I painted and I learned from academics, stay-at-home moms and professional writers about their approaches to creating and communicating.

In short, the course was an offline, artistic version of a media cloverleaf boot camp.

As I gear up to teach an Edelman Learning Institute course to my colleagues in the Silicon Valley office, here’s what I learned from my week in charming Gambier, Ohio.

1) Good writing = good business

Communication methods may change rapidly, but one tenet remains constant: clear, effective writing leads to change. Writing is a skill that will never be a non-asset – and cultivating that skill through continuing education and practice will always benefit you. Reading helps too – and plenty of resources exist to facilitate consumption of good writing.

Websites like Medium, apps like McSweeney’s and the original mobile technology, the book, are inexpensive, portable and should be part of your daily routine.

2) Displacement = recalibration

Routine, though integral to creating healthy habits and improving skills, can stifle creativity within. Every once in a while – weekly, monthly, quarterly – jostle your day-to-day. Instead of writing something in an email, take a colleague to coffee. Hand write a first draft of a pitch. Travel. Get your hands dirty with paint, clay or glue. Schedule time to meditate and play away from your comfort zone.

Displacement brings out new ideas, relationships and ways of thinking: a recalibration of the creative mind.

3) Communicate in more than just one dimension

My biggest takeaway from this workshop was to think multi-dimensionally. As someone who self-identifies as a writer and attended journalism school, I take comfort in the use of words. In this workshop, we wrote responses to prompts, discussed assignments and approaches, constructed visual vessels for our work, performed pieces in readings and also displayed our books in a final interactive exhibition. We saw people touch our work, read and react – and they often dismantled and interacted with each piece differently than we envisioned. Like great art, we must think about experiential elements as we craft creative campaigns.

4) You are your own product

In the throes of account work, we PR practitioners can forget that clients don’t just look for well-trimmed media lists or stellar media results. They also look for a counselor that they can relate to and confide in – much the same way that a class of writers travels to a workshop to seek guidance and feedback on their art. Your work is your fingerprint, no matter how far removed – be conscious of that and embrace it.

You never know how a past experience or a personal story can be leveraged into an insight, a good story or a new relationship.

Below, take a quick video tour of my exhibition space, which featured interactive art pieces, handmade books and a collection of written pieces.

Image credit: jjpacres

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