The winging of workshops

While I did sit down and write a proper talk for TDN back last November, generally my preference is to wing things. Rituals, novels, talks… there’s something about going into it less than perfectly prepared and being open to what happens in the moment. Having a script is like having a safety net, or a comfort blanket, and I have no problem with other people choosing that. However, what you don’t get to do is respond to the mood on the day, reliably. Having less prepared can mean having a lot more freedom to follow the awen.

It probably isn’t entirely reassuring to get the sense that booking me means I float in with no plan. So, I should probably mention that isn’t it either. I tend to know where I’m going to start. For a book, that means the set up at the start is clear in my head – I know who the main characters are, their backgrounds and motivations, and I know how the setting works. In a workshop I’ll have figured out some core activities and the gist of an open speel, and perhaps three or four threads of ideas that I might go with depending on how things work out. I don’t always end up doing any of them. It can be quite exciting to find that ideas generated within a workshop develop a life of their own. At this point my role is less that of leading, more of some kind of herding/midwifery combo that enables people to do things.
For preference, facilitating people in doing stuff is what calls to me most.

I like workshops more than straight talks, from a delivery perspective, because of the interactive nature of the beast. Standing at the front dishing out words can be an odd business, during which it is alarmingly hard to tell whether people are politely sitting it out and desperate for it to be over, or actually a bit interested. With a workshop, it’s easier to get a sense of when, or if, people are engaging, and that is a great comfort improver for me.

There’s also the whole authority thing of standing up front and lecturing. It can be the case that, due to research, experiment or hard thinking, I know more about a given subject than my audience but often that’s not the case. Druids, and for that matter Pagans, tend to read widely, live creatively and grow ideas. I’ve yet to be in a space where people didn’t have fascinating insights and alternative takes to offer on whatever I’ve come up with. It’s something I love about blogging, too. I float out a handful of thoughts, and then all manner of things come back in the form of comments. I like the fluid shifting between being the teacher and being the student. I like not holding authority.

If I don’t plan too heavily, then each time I take a workshop out, or a subject to talk about, it comes out slightly different. That’s a real joy as well. It reduces the risk of me getting bored, and it means that if you turn up to something I’m doing, you can be reasonably confident that you won’t have heard it before. There’s also an evolution element, as feedback and suggestions sneak into the mix. At Druid camp, Nick pointed out that we have a wealth of traditional music and we don’t base our chants on it. So I’m figuring out how to get more folk into the chanting, and that will be fun, and connects my Druidry more to the folk heritage I hold dear.

If you’re coming to the talk in Scarborough on Friday, expect to join in. I am planning on taking this one other places, too, just figuring out likely venues. Rest assured that I do have a plan, kind of, but if you come along with some wild ideas that could totally de-rail the whole thing, that’s fine. De-railing is a whole new adventure.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “The winging of workshops

  • druidcat

    Absolutely agree – and I do the same! Means you never get the same talk twice, you tailor to the audience and general mood… so many benefits. And it keeps you challenged as you talk and are questioned 🙂

  • Nick Bacon

    As the late Spike Milligan so wisely said, “If you don’t plan anything, nothing can go wrong.”

    This has worked for me throughout what might laughingly be referred to as my career!

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