And that seems to echo a recurring theme in NWP: gaining more control over your own life by telling your story. Of course we can learn a great deal from Odysseys and Ardens, from far away and long ago; we can not only lose ourselves but also find ourselves on journeys and in forests of one sort or another. But, in schools, we also need to cultivate children's sense that they can shape their destinies by telling their own stories - where the goal is less how right it is, but how true it is. Not necessarily true 'of' you, but true 'for' you. ‘Classrooms would be transformed if pupils wrote what they wanted to write, rather than what their teachers told them to write.’ (Harold Rosen 1969) When they do, they begin to see the power of story-telling, poetry and writing as a way of sharing and declaring, 'this is how I saw it; this is how it felt to me.' Whether the world is a dark place, or a bright place, the glass half-full or half-empty, we are the stories we tell. So we need a space to tell them and talk about them. To step forward and to step back. To think. To be. To become.
And writing groups are good places for that.
In this way 'creativity' shouldn't be some after-thought, some Friday afternoon reward for hard work; it should be a priority and a moral imperative: we each have a duty to declare our witness of the world, and a responsibility to hear and reflect upon the stories of others.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself: myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
(Sonnet: 'As Kingfishers catch fire ...' Poems 1879-1889)
At a time when cultures are reduced to 'high-performing jurisdictions', and when pupils have to know their place, or in which decile their test performance fell, and when structures (the KS2 grammar test) are raised above substance in the assessment of writing, it seems especially important to stand up for an education that offers something deeper and more hopeful to the children we teach - and to ourselves.
If you're not already a member of an NWP writing group, please do join us. You owe it to yourself. And it's free.
Simon Wrigley, NWP outreach director