Over the years I’ve come to believe that people are sometimes drawn to Dark Angels courses in answer to an unspoken, perhaps even unacknowledged, need.
They may not know it but at the moment they hear about our programme there is already something inside waiting to get out, something that responds to our call: a voice needing permission to speak, a different set of thoughts needing to be expressed, an energy in need of release.
When that’s the case, half our work is already done. All we need is to give that something the space and encouragement it needs to emerge. But 15 years ago, when we started the programme, we had no idea this was how it would work.
Then we came up with a series of exercises that we thought would simply help people to write more freely and imaginatively, with more personality and more enjoyment of the process. This other aspect of it only dawned on us gradually and, I have to admit, with a growing sense of excitement and delight.
Today, with several hundred courses behind us, these breakthrough moments are still thrilling to witness. They happened on the boat in Seattle, where beautiful weather and three days on the water took the Dark Angels experience to a whole new level. I wasn’t present at Loughcrew House, Co Meath, ten days later, but they happened on the course there too.
Britt Stromberg runs networking events in the Seattle area and writes a regular blog called Underwire, which she describes as ‘a newsletter for female founders kicking ass in business’. On the final day of the course, which happened to be Father’s Day, she wrote this powerful tribute-cum-manifesto. She posted it on her site the next day. Later she wrote that it, ‘would not have come out in that way at this point without Dark Angels.’
If this sounds like trumpet-blowing, I guess it is, though Britt, as is true of many other past participants, has the bigger trumpet to blow. The same goes for Orla Houlihan, who beautifully describes her Loughcrew experience here. She and Britt and the others all had the instruments and the tunes ready to go. We merely lubricated the valves.
That, I hope, will also be the effect of our new book, Dark Angels on Writing, launched last month. These days we are 12 – John, Stuart and me, plus our nine close friends and associates. Each of us has written a chapter on an aspect of the craft of writing. More than simply a how-to book, I’d describe it in the same terms as Britt’s post. It’s a manifesto.
It’s the sum of our knowledge and experience from 15 years of running these courses – courses that have moved and changed us all, as well as our participants, in ways we could never have expected. It’s about the importance of clarity and honesty in the language we use and the stories we tell, at work and in life. It’s about empathy and imagination and connection. It’s about things that are fundamental to good, kind, decent human communication – things that seem to matter more today than they ever have.
It’s a book that makes me very proud. You can get it here.