Writing Workshop at The Sanctuaries in Conjunction with Draw the Circle
On Friday December 15th, actor-performer-playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen brought his writer’s wisdom and talent for facilitation to The Sanctuaries, an organization in Ivy City that unites artists of various disciplines to create work that ignites the sacred power of the arts for social change. Eleven individuals participated; some of whom were invited to the event by The Sanctuaries leader Ahmane’ Glover, and some of whom came after receiving an invitation from Mosaic Theater’s public programming committee. The participants came with great intellectual, creative and identity diversity, leading to a powerful intersection of Washington, D.C, community members.
The event began at 6pm at The Sanctuaries’ space, which is on the second floor of a converted warehouse in Ivy City and includes a large workshop area with visual art materials and a smaller enclave with comfortable chairs, twinkle lights and hand-made posters from a variety of social justice campaigns. It was in this donated space from The Sancutaries that we gathered, enjoying catered food provided by Mosaic, to begin our writing exercises. Deen shared several aspects of his experience as a writer, touching upon the difficult balance between challenging yourself to generate work while being gentle with yourself as you go to incredibly vulnerable places to tell your stories. Deen talked about strategies for self-motivation, such as joining writing groups or using writing prompts for inspiration. Participants went around and shared their names, pronouns and reasons for coming to the workshop -- for many, it was a desire to begin the process of personal creative writing, for others it was a chance to share work and receive feedback.
Deen gave the group a writing prompt: “Think about the time of your life when you were half as young as you are now. Imagine you’re in a room that you knew well at the time. Remember the colors, scents, sounds and other details of that room; are there people there? Imagine something jarring or unexpected happens, disrupting the scene. What was it?” Deen gave us ten minutes to write, and we were told not to pick up our pens or second-guess a single word during that time period.
After the writing exercise, each participant shared either what they had just written or an excerpt of a piece they had written prior to class. Writers shared moving, personal, tragic, and hilarious stories. There was an environment of mutual support and trust amongst the writers in the room. Deen coached us on how to give constructive feedback that avoids directorial notes and centers personal impressions from the work. This approach to responding gives the artist the freedom to take feedback into account on their own terms.
By the time 9pm came around, we had all shared our work and reflected on the unique opportunity we had just experienced to be vulnerable, generous, and all-around inspired.
Thanks to Deen, The Sanctuaries, and everyone who participated in this gathering of brave creators!