Not for the Faint-Hearted Online

tldr; the next online Not for the Faint-Hearted workshop is on April 25th and you can sign up on Eventbrite.

I’ve been running the Not for the Faint-Hearted writing workshop irregularly since October 2009. For most of that time we’ve been hosted by The Skiff in Brighton, but people have occasionally suggested trying it online. As the Skiff is temporarily closed, I decided it was a good time for our first online session.

Not for the Faint-Hearted (NFTFH) was originally set up with poet Ellen de Vries, and was intended as a reaction to other writing workshops. We show a picture and people have three minutes to write a write some sort of response – a story, poem or dialogue. Then we take turns to read the stories. There is no feedback, and apologies are banned (everyone has just three minutes – sometimes it’s enough, sometimes not). The sessions are not about producing great work, but rather about enjoying the act of creation. The biggest joy of NFTFH for me is how entertaining the stories are, and the moving and surprising ways the images are interpreted.

The format itself is one that works well online, with the image shared on zoom. But there is a definite difference in the way in which it takes place. At the Skiff, I host a space. As people write, everyone can see other people scribbling out of the corner of their eyes. The lack of feedback works well in a real space as you can pick up the subtle cues of enjoyment and affirmation. Most of this is stripped away when working over zoom. It’s a strange feeling to have the event turned inside-out, looking out on different people’s houses as we all type alone.

But, overall, the session worked. We even had our first song! Interestingly enough, the pace of stories is slower than it is on a hosted event. Someone suggested having an opportunity to hang out afterwards, so I will try that next time. It was fun to do the workshop, and I even turned out a couple of stories that I want to add to my new collection. Of course, the current events leaked into a lot of stories, but it felt good to reinterpret our experiences as entertainment.

I am going to book another session for next weekend. I’m advertising it as a Brighton-based event, because I like the idea of a remote-but-local event, although people from further away are very welcome. The numbers are going to stay low as I think more than 10 would be tricky – but if I have a waiting list, then I may try to run more sessions.

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