Expert Opinion

National Writing Day: celebrating the power and pleasure of writing

National Writing Day is an initiative that celebrates the life-enhancing potential of creative writing.  The key message is that writing is a democratic act: everyone has a story to tell, and you don’t have to be a professional writer to enjoy it as a liberating form of self-expression.  

To mark the day, I chaired a panel on 25 June at The Leeds Library entitled ‘Writers on Writing’, featuring Malika Booker, Melvin Burgess and Jacob Ross.

The event was organised through a collaboration between Leeds Beckett and writing charities, First Story (which organises National Writing Day) and Arvon.

The event started with a discussion on the pleasure and power of writing.

Each writer had their own take on what, in their writing lives, power and pleasure means to them: for poet Malika Booker, the transformative power of the word exists in the ability to write from the perspective of her own culture.

For Jacob Ross, writing is a means of ‘speaking truth to power’ in a way that can be both dangerous and subversive. He also spoke about how, for him, one of the pleasures of writing is in mentoring and developing the craft of younger writers. Melvin Burgess spoke about one of his key pleasures, which is in his enjoyment of the musicality of language.

But if writing is a pleasurable activity, it can also sometimes induce pain. All the writers spoke of the difficulty of starting and the gap between the imagined work in progress and the reality of trying to get it onto the page. And what happens when you get stuck?

The advice from the panel is: run a bath, have a long soak, and the solution may well come to you (though apparently showers work just as well!).

National Writing Day is all about participation and getting involved. So, in addition to the roundtable dialogue with the invited writers, all attendees were encouraged to have a go themselves, with a piece of timed freewriting in response to the official National Writing Day prompt ‘I feel most free when…’

The timer was set for five minutes and there was a focused but frenzied silence as everyone captured on the page the memories, objects and activities that make them feel most liberated.  The answers were shared informally and everyone went away with a favourite line they could develop into a potential creative piece.

You can find more resources on National Writing Day, including the instructions for the Write Away! prompt on freedom here.




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