Workshop on Creativity by Round Midnight

This article appeared in Emirates Business 24/7 and can be found at:

There is no such thing as writer’s block according to crime author Jeffery Deaver. There’s only ideas block – when thoughts do not gel and the plot does not move apace.

There was no shortage of ideas at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, or Lit Fest, where Deaver was speaking. He was but one of a plethora of international authors engaging with readers and fans alike.

Authors are in a perpetual dilemma: they want to be social creatures, yet do their best work in solitude; they draw inspiration from crowds but craft and hone in solitary confinement. British writer and journalist Chris Cleave expressed perplexed amusement at these conflicting demands at an open session on social media and literature.

It was certainly their social selves that the authors had brought to the Lit Fest. They ambulated and socialised, discussed their work and chitchatted about Dubai’s balmy weather.

Well-known children’s author Caroline Lawrence met up with book lovers and social media users for an informal chat over coffee, while Cleave meandered the bookstore area in the quest for interesting conversations. Contemporary London-based author James Meek held forth and signed books, while Imran Ahmad entertained with tales of humorous woe about trying to get his first book published.

Paul Blezard, ex-host of Between the Lines on Oneword Radio in the UK and ex- literary editor of Lady, claims to have read a book a day for the past 10 years. At the Lit Fest, he was traipsing around wearing what looked suspiciously like a lungi; a skirt worn by men in the Indian Subcontinent. He was going to the pool, he said, but then stopped to have an impromptu chat. Shutterbugs offering their services gratis immediately swooped, for not everyday is Blezard caught in billowing blue-check skirts.

There was plenty to inspire at the Lit Fest, not least a workshop on stimulating creativity by Round Midnight. From synchronized clapping to impromptu playacting and the use of mood music, it offered tips to cleave through even the most stubborn impasse.

Yann Martell, author of the novel Life of Pi, believes the novel is the best representation of reality. In that case, a novel about the Lit Fest would have to be part biographical, part adventure-thriller and part social critique, for the event combined all this and more.

Deaver says he plots his outlines before he starts writing because it gives him a sense of control over proceedings. But he has never had the problem of his characters taking on a life of their own. The Lit Fest, much like Deaver’s suspense-infused plots, was carefully plotted. But it quickly ascended to a melee of authors, readers, writers and fans – a beautiful cacophony of conversations in an egalitarian space that everyone could share.

British author Martin Amis opined at the Lit Fest that we are all writers for a brief time in adolescence, because we are good at self-communion. At the Lit Fest, we returned briefly to unstilted, unforced self-expression.

Calling it a festival of literature alone is too restrictive, because it addressed not just the written word. The Lit Fest was a celebration of shared space, community and freedom of expression.