• John Dempster

Hands and Feet: An inspirational writing workshop with Merryn Glover

Merryn Glover led an inspirational Writing Workshop on Tuesday evening. It had an unusual theme ‘ ‘Hands and Feet.’ We focussed on these parts of our anatomy, giving them more thought than perhaps we ever had done before. Our hands – what do we use them for, what roles do they play in the drama of our lives? As we reflected similarly on our feet, we realised how dependent we are on them, how we give them scant regard, scant gratitude.


We made lists of actions associated with feet and hands. We drew the physical shape of a hand, a foot on the paper in front of us. Could we write a concrete poem, in which the shape of foot or hand combined with words about foot or hand to create a meaningful resonance? Did we find working within the restrictions of a shape surprisingly liberating, or were we chafing to escape shape’s straitjacket and write freely? It didn’t matter – what was important was that new thinking had been sparked, new writing created.


The evening ended with a chance to spend ten minutes crafting a more extended piece, with some writing prompts from Merryn to help us. We could write a letter to our hands, or feet; or allow them to express their insights in a letter to us. We should allow our minds to spin a skein of words beginning from a single word ‘Barefoot’, or ‘Footsore.’ We could reflect on ‘If my hands gave up’ or ‘if I lost my hands/feet.’


In most writing workshops I have attended, we’ve sat writing, and then have been free to share (or not to share) our newly-created work publicly. Merryn tried a different approach. We were to sit in threes, and after writing were free if we wished to read and discuss what we’d created with the others in our group, with instructions to say only positive things about each other’s work. This was a little scary, but in fact very enriching. It made the workshop a shared experience, and there was, for everyone, personal encouragement.


Merryn led some general discussion about hands and feet. We heard about someone who can ‘read’ more about someone from their hands than from their face; we reflected on what it must be like to have no hands, no feed, to have the absence of hands or feet as part of your identity. These discussions too prompted new thinking.


And at the very end, a few people did read what they had created during the evening.


There must have been nearly thirty of us in the Hanover Room at the Glen Mhor Hotel, a log fire blazing in the grate. There was in the room a sense of purpose, joy and fellowship in the room: we allowed Merryn’s inspirational thinking to spark the furnace of our own creativity, and our hearts were warmed both by what we wrote, and what we heard. ‘Thank you for giving yourself to the process so generously,’ Merryn said in conclusion. We in turn were grateful to her for giving herself for two hours to us with a similar generosity.


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