Conversation 30: Fostering an Invitational Writing Space in which to connect, create and thrive

 Introduction

I set up THE DAILY HAIKU in March 2020. My aims were and still are to create a writing space that is accessible, engaging and fun. As I welcome new members each day I describe our community as one that is creative, nurturing and supportive. I believe and am proud to say that is what we are, facilitate and foster.

1

Last week’s Transnational Literature conference: Follow The Sun run by Paper Nations UK on the theme of ‘Place and Displacement’ was inspiring. It has given me a chance to reflect on my creative and collaborative practice. How are we fostering a thriving and inclusive writing community that realises its aims and aspirations? What more can we do?

2

Aminatta Forna’s keynote presentation at the conference, highlighting voice over place, resonates with my desire to create ways to connect that are open, inclusive and celebrate diversity. I was reminded of a time when I first went to New York. On meeting new people they would ask me “What are you into?” This emphasis on what I like rather than what I do for a job or where I am from is refreshing and liberating.

 

Aminatta went on to discuss how women are often at their most relaxed and open when they meet in communal bathrooms. That happenstance and ease of conversation is something that comes when you are comfortable; in non-judgmental spaces focusing on shared experiences. A sense of being in the moment.

3

Connecting and connection is central to successful communication. In THE DAILY HAIKU I want the community to be one that invites everyone to take part. It doesn’t matter what you do as a job, your experience or where you are from. There are no written rules to join.  There is a sensibility that has evolved within the community itself of wanting to create a nurturing, supportive and welcoming ethos.

 

We start from one point only of coming together in a shared creative space. We have a common passion for creativity through the practice of a daily haiku activity. Some are new to writing, some returning whilst others are experienced writers, but everyone is equal. We vote on themes and listen to suggestions. I facilitate and respond. I suggest and experiment. We discuss and embrace difference. I believe this allows us to adapt.

 

The invitational space of THE DAILY HAIKU hinges on a central activity of creating haiku that is immediately understandable and an easy to engage with short form of writing. You can fit it into your day or take as long as you want. Key to the format is embracing a holistic approach to writing that can also involve visual thinking by using photography, artwork and video.

4

In my wider creative practitioner work questions and choices are helpful in establishing connection and encouraging engagement. They are especially helpful in encouraging people to get involved in writing for the first time. Then as we explore our writing they can take us out of our comfort zones. In face-to-face situations I like to set up spaces that are inviting with a table full of sensory touchstone objects, natural and unnatural which naturally prompt conversation. Writing emerges through personal conversations. Formats for writing are informal. I rarely promote sessions as writing or poetry, even these words can put off people and only appeal to existing converts.

 

The daily and weekly themes, alongside other prompts and features, on THE DAILY HAIKU are always an open question “What do you think?” Themes are left to members to interpret. This often prompts wider discussions and points where we connect where more details about our lives and ideas can be shared.  But these are never presumed or forced, they emerge naturally.

5

Also, crucially, there is not one way to respond and no work is deemed better than another. Personal preferences and opinions are of course most welcome. The Facebook like/love click and comment format encourages engagement but also an inbuilt judgement. But I hope on THE DAILY HAIKU responses reflect what we like or we connect to, as opposed to what is better than something else. After complaints about the FB labels that rewarded contributors for their engagement eg, branding people as ‘conversation starter’ etc, we switched them off after a discussion and vote.

 

Comparison should be inspirational not dispiriting or competitive but we can only offer guidelines and support. Writing is a complicated practice. It involves multiple motivations involving times when we thrive and others when we feel blocked. Furthermore it is frequently linked to our emotional wellbeing. Expressing how we feel in our haiku and our discussions encourages a space where opinions and feelings are invited, listened to and welcomed.

7

So we start from a place where everyone is welcome. No dress code or qualifications, just a desire to take part in whatever way you choose. An easily achievable activity but one that can be developed in any way you want to take it, for as long or as little time as you want to be involved. A trust to see what will emerge. Freedom. We offer different ways to engage alongside the daily format.  This includes collaborative twice weekly renga, discussion threads on haiku, haiga invitations, one-off impromptu themes and call-outs for submissions for film projects.

 

If anyone is offensive the group consensus highlights this to me. I am further guided by overriding discrimination codes including the 2010 Equality Act.  Thankfully this is rare and we continue to foster and maintain a creative, nurturing and supportive environment.

8

In our discussions at ‘Follow The Sun’ barriers to accessibility were touched upon and these continue to be something I want to address. Setting up a core writing group on Facebook, now on The Great Margin website and also Twitter allows us to access a worldwide engagement, crucial during the pandemic. However, issues around digital poverty have shown that this accessibility can exclude those without the technological means, connectivity or know-how. I look forward to getting back to a time when we can also support online engagement with face-to-face real time connection.

 

I leave this blog with an invitation to write haiku inspired by the theme PLACE AND DISPLACEMENT. As always 3 lines, 5/7/5 syllables a guideline NOT a rule with or without visual imagery. Go with the flow and see where this takes you…

 

Links:

 

Transnational Literature conference Follow The Sun hosted by Paper Nations UK https://www.bathspa.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/follow-the-sun/

@TNLit #FollowTheSun

http://papernations.org

https://aminattaforna.com

@aminattaforna

www.facebook.com/groups/THEDAILYHAIKU

@TheGreatMargin and @amandawhite10

The Equality Act 2010 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

10 Comments on “Conversation 30: Fostering an Invitational Writing Space in which to connect, create and thrive”

  1. Who knew you could run a Facebook group without rules, only suggestions? You did, Amanda. You have captured the ethos of TDH so well and as our membership keeps increasing from 4k+ I hope other people find what I have within the group. I have found a daily aim in my life, that I can do even when my pain flares up.
    My mind is alive with creativity and I have filled my blog with haiku, tanka, shadorma, daily affirmations, gratitude journal and “good vibes” which are inspiring or thought-provoking quotations.
    The support and nurturing I have felt on TDH from some of its lovely members has been wonderful.
    Thank you, Amanda, for creating such an inspiring site and long may it continue.
    Now I am off to contemplate the theme of Place and Displacement! ❤👩‍🦰🧡🦊💛

  2. Thank you Carolyn for your wonderful words and I am so glad that the group has brought a ‘daily aim’ that is both inspiring but can help when you are in pain. All wishes to you.

    1. I have pondered place and displacement and this is what I came up with.

      The Great Margin – Conversation 30 with Amanda White.

      Theme: Place and Displacement.

      Place

      home is where my heart is, with my cats, memories,
      the place I feel safe.

      Displacement

      when my mum died I
      became a sixty-year-old
      orphan – displacement.

      ©🦊VixenOfVerse, 2021.

  3. My comment is brief: I very much enjoy the brief of TDH and whether what comes from prompt is deep or shallow, I feel comfortable posting it. They’re all thoughts in the moment and I like balance. Deep is good, but so is coming up for air👍

  4. Amanda, you have assiduously, and with a great deal of work and commitment behind the scenes, built a most admirable communal space where, almost unique on Facebook, people of all sorts congregate and almost always in harmony. The atmosphere is encouraging, the wealth of life experience is fascinating and educational, the creativity is amazing, and everyone who has a go comes up with something stunningly unexpected sooner or later. Each one is a tribute to you. The whole is a great and exemplary achievement.

    each face that graces
    this book with little poems
    a sun among clouds

  5. Hi Amanda – this groups is brilliant and very positive and encouraging- I am constantly impressed by the way it fits in with my role as a hospice poet. I am interested in other people! Their stories and glimpses of the world. I am privileged in a hospice to write for others to reflect their stories and moments. One of my approaches is ‘Narrative Identity’ – the sense of self is built from our stories – not from a grand novel but from all the building blocks of moment and story in our lives. The Haiku is a wonderful and accessible gem to use in each persons identity – and also to use to reflect on someone else’s story .

    One key value with promoting – in any haiku or comment on someones work – does what I write add to someones story, reflect in a way that is positive and has value and empathy? If not – best left unsaid! We are a wonderful TDH community of over 4000! We all have stories to celebrate and share and admire – the way that will get us to 5000!

  6. After the brunt of making masks was calming down, I was wanting to get back into songwriting, but it wasn’t coming. I was hoping it would, but it didn’t and hasn’t. So, here I am, sitting at my computer when out popped a surprising thought. It was surprisingly clear kind of like when you have a God moment and I’m thinking maybe it was Him/Her. So clearly was the thought, “You need to write some haiku.” I sat there for a moment not believing this was coming from me. I had never written haiku. I have read and enjoyed haiku, but not in a long time and how in the world could I do such a thing! Anyway, I took hold of that thought and decided that “yes” that might be a good place to start, but where? Then my mind told me I should go to FB and see if there were any groups. Yours, Amanda, was the first one!!!! I must confess it looked a bit intimidating, but not because anyone was being any way, but because I was seeing all this haiku and it looked to flow flawlessly. I read the rules and took the plunge. I did go to a few other sites, but always came back here because I felt I was learning something new and after a few days, I was seeing the support and encouragement. Amanda, you have started something that is life changing for many people. I know I’m not a ‘master’, but then I came as a sheep and I’m happy to be part of the flock. I learn something everyday whether it’s from someone like Sebastien or Keith or Marion or Annie or Stan or You (I could go on) or someone new to the group, I love the rabbit-holes and Google for making it easy to get away or look up a new word. I love Jenny and her friendly inquisitiveness and insightful haiku. You are all marvelous and I’m so happy I’m a part of the team! Sorry this is long, but you Rock, Amanda and don’t you forget it!!!!

  7. Place and Displacement:

    leaving home
    out of my comfort zone
    a new dawn

    last turn of the key –
    already missing
    the tall ash trees’ rustle

    uprooted –
    a delicate gardener
    takes care of me

    leaving the nest
    three staggers but still
    standing

    at peace
    within yourself
    home

    lockdown
    through poems I travel
    within myself

    1. This haiku sequence Sébastien is beautiful, meditative and each haiku feels like a room you travel through. And in reading through I return to one room at a time and take my time to enjoy each haiku. Haiku: at peace/within yourself/home has such a pleasing tempo, each word is perfectly balanced to match that sense of peace, space, harmony. The juxtaposition of the next haiku that beings with lockdown perfectly displaces the one before.
      Did you write them sequentially or at different times. I am also intrigued to explore how you might also play with the arrangement of them further, perhaps in another shape, a wheel turning so in finding home you are also leaving home in a circular motion. I would also be interested to displace other central lines to within other haiku eg at peace/through poems I travel/home. But of course as you have set it out creates a path from leaving to arriving both visually and verbally. I love it and have already returned to re-read several times, pausing at the door of each haiku to enjoy its space and breadth. Thank you for sharing.

  8. quietly head rises
    from crossed hands out of dreamland
    fog lifts from the mind

    soft sound of snoring
    from spouse serenades the room
    rooted love blossoms

    springs forth a vision
    colors and shapes of love and
    light on a canvas
    *
    Theme: #Blossoms
    #Beginning
    :::::::::
    Heard two different podcasts with opposing viewpoints recently on writing “morning pages” advised by Julia Cameron (which I did decades ago and it was life-changing) before doing anything else.

    Now, with writing haiku, I love quiet mornings when I can write first thing before the chatter of people, events, and technology break the bubble of serene creativity.

    A new beginning today, as this time also inspired an idea for a painting which I am giving myself permission to play with, letting go of old doubts and my life-long mantra of saying “I can’t paint.”

    It has been life-changing for me to stop saying “I can’t write haiku poems” because now I do, constantly. I continue to learn and grow thanks to THE DAILY HAIKU and supportive poets who teach us something new almost every day.

    These poems and ideas are the results of my current type of morning pages and I treasure them. Thank you Amanda for opening up new doors that I have had closed for decades.

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