#38Write: How I’m Using Pinterest in the #38Write Writing Workshop

38Write—my [new-ish] global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag (#38Write) and a group board on Pinterest. The July workshop had 16 writers in 9 countries. It’s pretty darn fun.

When I set out to create #38Write—a monthly series of writing workshops for writers all over the world—I knew I’d have to find ways to help students connect, feel part of a group, communicate with me and one another, deepen their experience, etc. Sure, they’d receive emails from me. Sure, they’d send emails to me. But after teaching writing workshops—online and in person—for nearly 20 years, I knew that wasn’t enough. A workshop—even a remote workshop—needs to offer connectivity, because while actual writing happens one writer to one keyboard/pen, a workshop needs group energy.

During the first workshop (June 2012), I introduced the Twitter hashtag #38Write. It was terrific. Writers in China were tweeting with writers in Australia; writers in the U.S. were tweeting with writers in France; writers in Belgium were tweeting with…well, you see what I mean. It proved to be a great way for writers on different continents and in different time zones to communicate.

Then in July 2012, I added Pinterest to the mix. (stirring, stirring…)

How It Works

  • I create a group board for the workshop on my Pinterest account. (For example, I created a group board for the July 2012 workshop—#38Write | Structure. See it here.)
  • I add each writer in the workshop as a “pinner.” (Of course, writers do not have to participate in the Pinterest board. Not every writer wants to engage in the social media aspects of the class. Some want to get the assignments and work without interaction. That is perfectly fine. Different strokes for different folks.)
  • After I “add” writers, each receives an invitation from Pinterest to be a “pinner” on the group board. It’s all very mannerly.
  • Once writers accept their invitations, the group board also appears on their Pinterest pages, and they can start pinning to the board.

My Intention for Pinterest

Here’s what I said about the Pinterest element to writers in #38Write | Structure:

  • “As you’re working, observing, adventuring, tooling around the Internet, take note of images of cool structural things. Then add them to the 38Write | Structure board. Anything that makes you think. Anything that puts you into writerhead. IMPORTANT: The new Pinterest layer of the class isn’t to replace or displace the writing; and no, I don’t want you to write from a photograph. The Pinterest board simply offers another way to see, to share how/what you see, to get inspired, to connect with other writers in the workshop, to find a jumping-off point, etc.

“For example, a few days ago, I spotted a photograph of a ‘glass frog’ on MV’s Facebook page (MV is one of the writers taking the workshop), and I was compelled to pin it on the 38Write | Structure board—not because I wanted to write about the frog, but because the structure of the frog made me think about the structure of an essay. My thought was, ‘Hm, could I structure an essay this way? An essay with a solid shape but translucent skin through which readers could see the innards? Solid yet vulnerable.’ I immediately jetted off into writerhead…far, far from the actual frog. As writers, we make all kinds of connections from many different stimuli…some direct, some indirect…some concrete, some abstract. As a teacher, I like to offer a variety of ways for writers to happen upon such stimuli. Pinterest is one of those ways.”

 The Benefits of Using Pinterest in a Workshop

  1. communication (People speak visually, as well as verbally; Pinterest allows this all-important visual conversation to happen…despite the miles, oceans, and time zones that separate writers in my workshops.)
  2. cultural exchange (Writers all over the world can share what their neck of the woods looks like, feels like, etc. I was going to say “smells like,” but as far as I know, Pinterest has not yet introduced “Smellerest.” Would be great though!)
  3. think/see — see/think (Writers in the workshops get to “see” how the other writers think, which pushes them to think and see in different ways. This happens organically in a “live-and-in-person” workshop; Pinterest is a great way to nurture this from afar.)
  4. jumping off points for the writing / inspiration (While I don’t encourage or discourage writers to write from a photograph, sometimes a photograph is the inspiration for a piece of writing…or one aspect of a piece of writing. For example, this pinned photo got me going this morning. How could it not?)
  5. group buzz (Yup, for many, Pinterest gets the creative juices flowing. Inspiration is contagious.)
  6. focus (As a writing teacher, I often say, “See it in your mind’s eye” and “Get your readers to see what you see.” Pinterest focuses that eye.)
  7. fun (Ya gotta have fun…)

And there you have it. Pinterest in a writing workshop. Love it.

(If you’re interested in signing up for the next #38Write, click over to the Classes page.)