By Danielle Pope
“I didn’t think writing counted as art.”
I remember the woman who said this — how her red earrings bobbed from side to side as she tilted her head, tears in her eyes. She, like those of us standing beside her, had just heard a line of poetry. It was the kind of line that moved people to bring their hands to their chests, mouths open in awe. The room, silent, waited to let go of its breath.
I can’t remember the line.
What I can remember is the way that woman stared at the poet, the way a young child might look upon meeting the real Santa. She stood there, now speechless, and the poet likely never knew.
It was the first time I felt, in my body, the impact words can have. It also cemented my belief that writing, and story, can transform a person. It, as an art form, can take us to places we never knew we could journey. The best part is that we’ve already been gifted the ticket: our imaginations.
This summer, I had the chance to host “The Young Writers Creative Edge” — a workshop at the AGGV geared for youth ages 12-17. The workshop was a sold-out event, and we spent three days playing with words, stories, imaginations, creativity and art.
To me, writing — like so many art forms — is where imagination and creativity find themselves at a junction with the body. The mind unfurls storylines and possibilities, beautiful sentences and striking imagery, while the heart skips a beat when just the right word is chosen; a lump grows in the throat when a line strikes with might.
While I make it my mission to help people find their voices and play with words, I am always struck by the inventive places people take themselves — and listeners — in a story. I am often touched by the full-body reaction a piece of writing can have.
The examples come as close as our gallery workshop. One of the youth took a first-person perspective of a particularly dark acrylic painting and unleashed a story of its sunny outlook on the world — how it wondered why people often frowned when they stared in its face. Another young writer turned a sculpture into a long-lost artifact, desperate to be returned home. A third imagined what it felt like to be the architect laying the finishing touch on the Japanese Shinto shrine, and what that meant for his career and legacy. None of us could look at those pieces again without remarking how they’d seemed to change.
“When I consider these reflections from some of our youngest writers, inspiration is never hard to come by. The trick, it seems, is to allow ourselves the space to experience our world, and the time to reflect it.”
You never know when your words might be the ones that transform someone’s life.
Danielle Pope is a writer, editor and story coach in Victoria, B.C. Through her business, The Story Midwife, she leads creative writing workshops and retreats to help people find their voices and play with words. Danielle graduated with a degree in creative writing and journalism from the University of Victoria, and has been a journalist in Canada for over a decade. Her work can be found through her social media: @TheStoryMidwife.
Images courtesy of Danielle Pope.