Jimmy Gordon, Writer
Jimmy Gordon’s creative writing sessions with a group of young mums and their babies and toddlers generated a heart-warming story about pregnancy and friendship. During the process he discovered a modest yet positive creative energy within the group, which he hopes participants will continue to recognise in themselves and draw upon to create and share stories with their children in the future.
The ‘quiet’ creativity that produced powerful stories
When I was first introduced to Expecting Something, Wester Hailes I was immediately struck by the laid-back nature of the group and how supportive all of the mums were of each other.
My aim was for the group to learn more about expressing themselves creatively and I hoped to help nurture the confidence they needed to do so. I’ve been doing this kind of work for long enough to know that everyone has the ability to create interesting and imaginative stories, and this group was no exception.
The process began with encouraging the group to think creatively about language. What do you hear in the room? What do you see? What does that make you think of? Use all of your senses. These triggers encourage people to describe the word around them, either through the written word or out loud. It helps to break down preconceived notions around what makes a story a story, or a poem a poem, and whether or not they are any ‘good’ at writing. Don’t think about what you learned at school, don’t worry about any rules. There are none. You’re writing for yourself alone. It’s not unusual for people to create something really powerful from this kind of exercise alone.
The next week we moved on to storytelling, something it was clear the group has a talent for. I was really impressed with the stories that people came up with, either as individuals or as a whole group. I hope they will keep some of these stories, and maybe share them and develop them with their children.
During Scottish Book Week we had a teddy bears’ picnic and explored various bear-themed books and stories. This led to the group working together to create their own idea for a picture book. An observation that most bears in children’s stories are male was the only spark needed for the group to begin creating the story of Honey, a bear attending ante-natal classes for the first time and befriending Peanut the elephant.
The story was full of humour, even with participants insisting the actual births be included. But it also had a positive message with Honey, Peanut and the other mums in the story realising that they are each different and, when it comes to being a mum, need to do it their own way.
In my short time with the group in Wester Hailes, I was blown away by the creativity on display. It was often a very quiet and modest creativity, but it was definitely there and I hope that the mums will continue to invent and share some of these really imaginative stories with their children.
I was also really impressed with the stories the participants shared about their own experiences, not written down on my say so but shared in conversations with each other. I am struck by how the story of Honey and Peanut mirrors their own experiences, a story where the most important support they receive is from each other. For the longest time we couldn’t think up a title for their story, until one participant came up with a title that perfectly summed it up – ‘Expecting Something’.
Expecting Something works with new, young and expectant parents under 25 and their babies in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh and Lochgelly, Fife, providing a weekly safe space to spend time with their babies and peers whilst engaging in artist-lead creative activities.