I feel really lucky to have been at the Mslexicon event in Leeds last weekend (12th/13th July). It was a dynamic and supportive conference for women who write and I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like it in my life before.
It isn’t an exaggeration to state that this experience has been life changing. The Mslexia staff generated an atmosphere that was enabling and enlivening and it fostered intimacy and trust. Debbie Taylor is a leader par excellence and I was really impressed with the integrity and authenticity woven within and throughout the event.
The Mslexicon event was a conference like no other – an opportunity for women who write to meet agents, publishers, established writers and network, network, network… I was there to provide a supportive 1:1 sessions for participants either after they had received feedback from agents etc or simply to help cope with the experience. Many writers may be introverts by nature and the opportunities available and the vibrancy of the gathering may well have been too much for some – so I wanted to provide a space to decompress and calm as much as talking about writing and being a writer. I felt overwhelmed at times and I wasn’t putting my writing out there for scrutiny – I was feeling the vibe and it did feel spirited and intense.
The sessions were actively promoted by the staff on the reception desk and the programme also referred to the therapeutic sessions being offered. Within a few hours there were names on the list and I felt a tingle of anticipation…It is clear that women who write often find it a challenging and stressful occupation and opening yourself up to any scrutiny is an additional stressor than make us feel vulnerable and uncertain. Offering these sessions was clearly welcomed and women were signing up and they didn’t even know who I was!!!
I feel extraordinarily privileged to have been trusted to be someone that women came to talk to about themselves and their writing – there were diverse reasons why they “booked” a session and I am so impressed that Debbie Taylor saw the importance of offering this space for the participants.
I was tempted to stay another day as I so enjoyed being part of Mslexicon and listening to the stories of weaving writing into a woman’s life BUT I wisely came home – taking note of my own advice around self-care and “down time”. I was also tempted by the positive feedback and stay to be available for those who were just hearing about the session but I listened to my “needing to be needed tendency” and knew I would be better not feeling the allure of usefulness…
I love helping people and the time just flew as I listened, asked questions and helped focus future action. I am a coach not a counsellor and am always checking for emotional well-being and capability – making clear the boundaries between therapy and therapeutic space – an expertise honed during writing workshop. Listening to women writers talking about their writing life was fascinating and since the event there has been a fabulous article in the Guardian by Brigid Schulte that encapsulates most of the issues presented (1).
The way I work is influenced by the work of Gillie Bolton (2) and Edgar Schein (3)– mixing reflective practice with Humble Inquiry. It helps shape the conversation and provide a scaffold for the conversation to develop and lead to agreed actions.
My reflections on my 24 hours at the Mslexicon event have been all over the place – it was so invigorating and I met a wide range of women who were inspirational and really interesting and interested in the work of Lapidus. It is definitely an experience that will continue to add to my learning curve and also know that there is more work to do about raising the credibility and cultural capital of writing and well-being.
As a result of my time helping writers at Mslexicon I have renewed my subscription to Mslexia and connected with a number of writers, agents and facilitators via social media.
It was a really fabulous experience and I feel really fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be there. I hope that there will be further events in the future and that Lapidus can be represented in a way that is explicitly about support and well - being and that this builds the cultural and intellectual capital of those of us who work in the area of writing and well-being. As I have previously stated there was real interest from agents and established writers about the sessions I was offering and the work I offer in writing workshops and utilising a coaching framework.