I registered with the BMCD to attend the workshop and then the word came that I could represent WAB, which had its own advantage because it would spare me paying the Nu 2800 attendance fee. However when I did attend the Workshop I was my own man. But I still feel obliged to fulfill the responsibility that a proper WAB representative would have and so I am writing a verbatim report of the five-day Workshop with writing and other worldly tips. Hope it benefits WAB promoters, members and well-wishers.
A virtual verbatim report
Event: Creative Non-Fiction Writing Workshop
Theme: Culture and Tradition
Dates: 18-22 July 2011
Organizer: Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy
Resource Person: James R. Bettinger, Stanford
Venue: WWF, Kawang Jangsa
Attendant: T. Sangay Wangchuk, Sonam Jatsho, Yeshey Dorji, Kinley Rinchen, Chogyal, Choglay, Namgay Tshoki, Karma Tenzin, Kezang Om, Tashi Choden
July 18, 2011 (Day 1)
Introduction and setting out the agenda, including identifying what to write during the course of the workshop (I missed the best part of it because I was late).
July 19, 2011 (Day 2)
Creative Non-Fiction is writing on facts or pretension of facts that is written with heart, craft, flair, imagination, with a personality coming through it and it’s always a pleasure to come across such a work. However it is not necessarily opinionated or polemical. Non-Creative Fiction.
- There is a writing that is blunt and an unabashed opinion of the writer such as was the case with the angry American journalism. The more skilful writing is the one that tells the same thing, but that doesn’t anger people, rather it subtly bring them round to your side. It is not the reasons you have that make you win; it is how you argue that makes you a winner. It is not in taking potshots that you become creative but it is in not having that freedom and still being able to find ways, with words and craft, that you become creative.
- There are people who read everything you write (your well wishers), there are people who will never read anything you write, and there are people who will read when you make sense and when you write well. The last category is the one you would want to keep in mind to get the best out of yourself.
- Sometimes you have to be direct and can’t hide behind curtains of anonymity and euphemism. Than you stand up and belt the cat. But there are occasions when it pays to be skillful in writing. Whatever the case, it is always better to have the skills at your disposal, you can write anyway you need to, so you can fit in situations. Herein, comes the question of ethics also.
- Dasho Sherub Gyaltshen: Thinking makes a man. Buddha never read, much less wrote. Milarepa started and ended his life in a cave but both these people are considered great scholars in hindsight. Voluminous works were compiled after their words.
The responsibility of a writer He must write to cultivate good, not write anything that comes to mind and not in any way he likes. Writing by doing: To write about chocolate, you have to taste it. Nelson Mandala: I had all the time in the world to think in prison. Time is of essence for a writer, a meaningful writing can come about when written with thought and insight. Ley-Ju-Drey: if you mean well, it will show in your action and it will come to benefit you. You have control at the seed level. Equality: It is not possible unless everybody think alike and everybody works for the wellbeing of others. The elimination of the self is a Buddhist preoccupation to set the world right. That is a tradition that has been instilled in us, and that is something Dasho’s generation understand instinctively. But that is a tradition lost on us now, and that is a tradition that ought to be reinstated. Creative writing that appeals to the masses can and must do that job. (The nature of the ultimate reality: When you go down to Phuntsholing, you are moving downwards, but when you reach Chapcha Zemla, you feel as if you are climbing up, but actually you are still going down. That is the reality you must not lose sight of). The tradition of timekeeping in Bhutan used to rely on nature, on suns and moons and on different shades of lights and sounds, on birds and bees. But now we cannot do it that way because we have divorced ourselves from our natural setting. The culture of documentation ultimately ensured the survival of Nalanda and its legend. We must do it for our own culture and past. The story of Lama Sherub Gyaltshen’s life long meditation stint. He spent 27 years in complete recluse and believed in the power of meditation, non-attachment and the use of his faculty. Writing is an extension of thought, when your thoughts bubble, it will flow into words.
- How to gather information: Direct Observation, Indirect (Vicarious) Observation.
- Where to begin: at the beginning, from the end or right in the middle.
- What point of view would you like to give: Of the first person or assume a high pedestal.
- Wall Street Journal’s Tested Outline (Taking the reader through to the end)
- Tease me (Lead)
- Tell me what you are up to
- Prove it
- Help me remember it
- Write an outline of it before you proceed with the writing. It makes channelizing the fear of starting easier.
- Write a summary because it is easier to change it if things go haywire here and it gives you a feel of how you want your final product to be
- Self edit, print if you need to. However, let your work simmer before you revisit your work.
Boston Globe writing coach and columnist Don Murray’s list of questions that help him find what he wants to write about (Modified for the purpose of this workshop).
- What surprised me recently?
- What’s bugging me? What do I keep thinking about, what do I keep talking about?
- What do I appreciate that I didn’t used to?
- What is changing? In the community around me? In the world around me?
- What did I expect to happen that didn’t happen?
- What did I not expect to happen that did?
- Why did something make me so mad? Worry me? Make me laugh? Make me sad?
- What do I keep remembering?
- What do I know that someone else needs to know?
- What do I need to know? What would I like to know? Who would I like to know?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What needs doing? What needs to be changed?
- What have I learned?
- What if…?
July 20, 2011 (Day 3)
Reading and exchanges of views on writing
Discussions and writing exercise
21 July 2011 (Day 4)
Writing about people
Look for (i.e. is to say when and why do you write about a person):
- People who are achiever
- People you have a fondness for
- People who breaks the stereotypes
- People who have untold stories
- People who are representatives of something bigger
… to be continued