Writing Workshops - online or offline? Bronwen Griffiths
For many years I’ve been a member of various writing groups. Most of these have involved meeting in person and then sharing work and feeding back via e-mail. Since the pandemic everything has gone on-line – for me that’s my local writing group and poetry group - and I’ve also joined a new online group where we read and feedback on work in progress. I’ve also ‘attended’ a couple of Arvon Masterclasses and ‘Novelnights.’
There are many advantages to online Zoom sessions. The cost of these sessions is usually affordable and there is no travelling - which involves both cost and time. Online sessions are also more accessible for those who are rarely, or never, able to travel. ‘Novelnights’ runs in Bristol, which is many miles from my home and would certainly not be practical for me.
But I’ll be honest – I don’t really like Zoom. For one thing I find my own face distracts me and I really don’t want to look at it when I’m speaking - and more importantly I miss in-person human contact and interaction. There is nothing like the buzz that happens in a room when everyone is writing and pens are moving across the page. The poetry workshop I attend used to take place at Rye Harbour. I can still visit Rye Harbour by myself and I’m lucky to have a lovely garden, as well as gardens nearby to visit and (at the time of writing) a nearby woodland heavenly with bluebells. But there’s nothing like being at Rye Harbour with my fellow writers and the poetry tutor Jane Lovell. And there can be no online substitute for the Avocet Gallery’s home-made cakes.
I find being at home can be distracting. I’m worried the phone will ring or someone will come to the door with a parcel or my partner will forget I’m on a Zoom call and start asking me questions. Of course there are distractions when we are in a room together but somehow those don’t bother me as much as distractions at home. I’m also bored stupid with the same curtains, same view, same desk and same wonky, annoying desk light!
I can’t wait to get back to being in face-to-to-face writing workshops, or even sitting alone in a coffee shop writing and taking in the vibes. However, it’s important for tutors and institutions to ensure accessibility for all and that will mean continuing to run workshops online. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Hopefully we can have both.
Bronwen Griffiths is the author of published two novels and two collections of flash fiction. At the moment she has absolutely no idea what she is doing or indeed what she might be writing about although she may be travelling up to Northumberland soon.