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Zooming Into the Future

How the world has changed in just a few months. We went from freedom to lockdown in a matter of weeks. This has affected all industries and businesses in different ways. As a teacher of creative writing my workday was turned upside down and put on pause as we tried to renegotiate our world in the midst of a pandemic. We could no longer meet in person and share a coffee as we discussed writing. As our country closed, we were sent home to take cover and to try and flatten the curve of the pandemic that was literally sweeping across the globe. Many people reached out to me to ask if I would consider doing my classes online. I couldn’t imagine how it would work (not the tech but the experience). Sharing one’s creative process with others takes courage. Critiquing a piece of work with comments in the margin lacked the nuance of the face-to-face experience. Text can be misunderstood particularly when the job is not only to praise the successes but also to point out where the work is falling short. This is a sensitive manoeuvre. In a classroom, sitting across from the writer, there is time to observe the impact of a critique on them. Facial expressions and body language tell a lot. In the absence of that how could these situations be handled? But desperate times call for innovation. I was willing to give it a go and see, on a trial basis at least, how and if it could work for a creative writing workshop. Well! Since lockdown, I have taught several classes on Zoom and surprise! surprise! It works really well. In a small workshop of 8 or 10 people the Zoom experience can be quite intimate. The participants can “attend” from anywhere that is convenient and safe and abide by all the rules of social distancing. Often dogs and cats join in too! I find that the atmosphere is relaxed. Are there moments when technology lets us down? Of course, but this pandemic has given us a better tolerance for mishaps. Where once we may have been impatient now we smile and wait it out. The new signals are read, like the frozen face on the screen, and we simply wait until the blip is fixed and we pick up where we left off. The option to share the screen with Zoom has allowed me to use technology that is often not available in many centres. With Zoom, I can share a document and point directly to the line that I am referring to. I can rewrite the line in real time and move paragraphs back and forth to give the writer an opportunity to see what another approach could look like. Is it the same as meeting together, catching up on life before settling into work? The answer has to be no. But in the absence of that option this is a pretty good substitute. It is the difference between having classes and not having them. Also, for many, Zoom classes answer a call. The online class allows them to attend classes without a huge interruption to their lives, no babysitting worries, no travel or parking costs. We don’t how the world is going to be put back together in the wake of this pandemic. What we do know is people still need the outlets of pleasure that they had before – maybe more now than ever. So if this interests you send me an email for more details. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. See you online!


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