Why We Need Writers Festivals

In workshops this week, I asked my students why they should attend Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF). It was a sad attempt at some sneaky reverse psychology, because I had been vaunting BWF for weeks, and now I wanted the validation of them telling me how keen they were for the festival.

It backfired, as reverse psychology often does. I received lots of “It’s great for networking!”, but little else.

Here’s what I told them.

There are many reasons to attend events such as BWF, but there are two extremely important and less tangible reasons to attend that often go unspoken. Steven Johnson touches briefly on the first one in his TED Talk Where Good Ideas Come From, when he talks about the importance of creative community.

Essentially, it’s much harder to maintain a high level of creative, original output when you isolate yourself. Many theorists and researchers of creativity have noted the importance of community to producing original ideas. Originality comes from the clash of ideas and the introduction of new ideas. In our ideological echo-chamber world of social media algorithms, we’re more in danger of going unchallenged than ever. Writers festivals challenge us to think in new ways, give us new concepts to consider, and alternative perspectives to ponder.

My second vital reason to attend writers festivals comes from a unexpected source. In one of The Oatmeal’s comics, he likens creativity to breathing (inappropriate language warning for this link). Producing creative works is breathing out — and constantly breathing out isn’t a great way to ensure you keep on living. Breathing in involves everything you do to fuel the creative fire inside of you, excuse my mixed metaphors. Breathing in can involve boxing, reading, gardening — and attending events like writers festivals.

I’ll be at BWF Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week, as a volunteer. It will be my fourth year volunteering for BWF, and I really can’t wait to pile on the fuel for my creative fire. I hope to see you there!

P.S. If you haven’t yet seen the BWF program, here it is.

Posted in industry news and events.