I’ve been doing some pre-Christmas stock-taking. It’s not an inventory of goods, though the stock in question is certainly good, but of assets of a less tangible kind: the writing generated on Dark Angels courses throughout the year, which I have been pulling together for the website.
Earlier this year, with the arrival of our nine new Dark Angels associates, we took a fresh look at how we describe ourselves. This, slightly paraphrased, is what we came up with:
“The aim of our Dark Angels courses is to help people to become better writers, communicators and storytellers, so they can be more effective at work. We believe that good ideas thrive, work is more meaningful, organisations prosper and relationships flourish when people respect the power of language and use words with skill and care.
“So our courses help people to develop their writing skills and creative confidence in ways that are fun, challenging and safe. When they return to work, they can write in more natural, human and engaging ways. They can use the power of stories to connect with people. They can explain their ideas more clearly. And they are more effective communicators.”
Naturally enough, a lot of writing is produced on the courses – though very little of it is about work. The final evenings are always given over to readings of the personal piece that each person has worked on throughout the course, alongside some of the more business-related exercises. These pieces range from the lyrical to the whimsical, the satirical to the deeply personal, the comic to the poetic, but never ever the corporate.
If people tend not to find creative inspiration in their commercial or organisational lives (how many great workplace novels can you name?), that’s not to say that the benefits of imaginatively stepping out of those worlds can’t then be taken back into them again.
Reading through the output from just the four courses we’ve run this year, I’m struck by the incredible diversity of subject matter and range of voices brought forth by people, many of whom wouldn’t consider themselves to be writers at all.
And if, given the right environment and encouragement, this expressive flowering can take place in just three or four days, what tricks are businesses and organisations missing with people whose latent talent is otherwise captive in their workplaces for close on 50 weeks a year? This must count among the ‘hidden jewels’ that Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in her book Big Magic, that I referred to last week. Note that it’s jewels plural she talks about. And imagination and skill with words are just two of the jewels to be uncovered, cut and polished on Dark Angels courses.
Talking of hidden treasure, on the Masterclass at Merton College back in April we invited each person to write about the unknown undergraduate in whose room they were staying, from the perspective of the cleaner. Tom Scott of Falmouth University came up with this haiku:
He seeks dark matter.
If he thought to ask, I’d say
where he could find it.