Over the past week, I was in a country in Southeast Asia with another trainer Marlene conducting writing workshops for aspiring Christian writers.
I’ve given overseas talks before. But this was my first time running full-day workshops and I went with some concerns on how things would go.
I ended up receiving training as much as I did training and took away a few thoughts from the experience:
- From Empire Café to Hanis Café to further roads
When I first left my past life working for a luxury hotel company and became a writer, I literally and figuratively crossed over from Raffles Hotel’s Empire Cafe (my department’s lunch hangout) to the National Library’s Hanis Cafe outlet (across the road) for my meals.
I spent many good afternoons at Hanis Cafe after my morning visits to the library’s children’s section. And yes, I liked my S$4 beef burger as much as the S$35 lobster noodles from across the road.
Last week, I made another crossover in my training workshops overseas. I was reminded of how blessed we are in Singapore in terms of infrastructure and meeting facilities, all of which I sometimes take for granted.
- Don’t Rush, Be Patient Lah
Being the typical Singaporean, I thought we should pack in as much as possible into our workshop programme. And over the months prior, I worked on shaping the programme together with fellow trainer, Marlene, an accomplished author and editor from the Philippines.
We learnt very quickly that we needed to leave space for reading time, translation time and much more personal one-on-one consultation time with the participants.
In “slowing” down, we in fact gained much more in the training as we allowed key writing principles to sink in and percolate like a good brew of tea. If we had gone “fast food” style and stuffed everyone with content, I think they would have gotten little nutritional value due to indigestion.
3. Found in translation
I started the first morning by getting the participants to spark ideas in English since most of them could speak English. I was disappointed when we did not get as much out of it.
Then in the afternoon, we decided to have them share childhood stories in their local language (with simultaneous translation). It opened a wealth of heartfelt stories which provide excellent material for children’s picture books and also gave me deeper insights into each participant.
I had mistakenly thought I would be lost in translation. Instead, I had inadvertently limited the participants because they were able to share much more in their native language.
Many ideas and much encouragement was found in translation.
3. The Write way with personal stories
Once we got to the tipping point of our workshops, Marlene and I found our greatest encouragement from the participants’ personal stories.
At the end of 4 full days of training, most participants wrote 1 personal testimony, 1 devotional article and 1 children’s picture book manuscript (inspired by their childhood) for their first time.
I wasn’t planning to write but I ended up working on 1 devotional piece too and it brought forth an old forgotten memory from childhood. (More on that later)
Finally, my biggest takeaway?
I could do all the planning in the world (and I should), but I needed to leave room for God to work beyond my pre-conceived notions and expectations.
On the final two days, we re-jigged our programme to allow space for the participants to write, time to translate, time for us trainers to give detailed one-on-one critiques and finally to hear out everyone’s stories.
We came away richer for that and thankful for God’s mercies through it all.