June 21st was a big day on social media. After all the election hoo-ha, The Queen finally opened Parliament, Prince Philip pulled an extreme sickie to miss it
and it was National Selfie Day. More exciting than all those Twitter-worthy events, though, was definitely the fact it was the first ever National Writing Day.
A team of word-nerds here in the London office, worked with the wonderful literacy charity First Story to launch the event and create a campaign to get the nation writing. Which is no easy thing. Think about it, when was the last time you wrote something, creatively, for fun? For most people, writing is an exercise that only exists at school. At some point, between the rigidity of grammar rules, the misery of having your work graded and the crushing pressure of exams, the joy gets squished right out of creative writing.
This is a huge loss and not only because the world needs to hear your vlog / sci-fi short story / political poetry / break-up song. It’s a loss because writing is a powerful tool for self expression and goodness knows the world needs strong, positive voices. Writing even a few lines can help people to find to theirs. It can uncover hidden talent, it can be therapeutic, it can even help your body to heal faster. Even more brilliantly, it’s available to everyone and it’s free. So we wanted to break the ‘I’m not good enough’ mental barrier, throw out the rules and give people the freedom to just write.
Our target audience on social platforms are a bunch of creative cats who intuitively communicate through images. This meant we needed an idea that would connect a visual audience with the written word. So we created The View From My Window, an oh-so-simple exercise, based on an established trick to help writers get rid of writer’s block. All you had to do, to join in, was pick a window and write what you saw.
We launched the campaign on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with a call-to-action film starring spoken-word artists, Suli Breaks and Matt the Poet.
A teaching kit was created and distributed to 70 secondary schools across the UK, explaining how to join in. To get the creativity flowing, we gave them polaroid-style window stickers to peek through, for inspiration.
First Story influencers and ambassadors kicked off the day’s action with stories of their Views. Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen ran a writing workshop in the British Library and local and national press covered the activity. As the campaign gained momentum we saw everyone from schoolchildren to national landmarks join in, sharing their stories on social platforms, with the hashtag #TellYourStory.
"If you can’t immediately think how to write, I’ll say this: talk with your pen. Just write what you would say. Use your spoken voice and turn it into writing. Talk with your pen." 📝 Read the rest of #MichaelRosen's speech from the #NationalWritingDay celebration at The British Library last week 👉 http://bit.ly/2sFuXiB . . . #TellYourStory #writersofinstagram 📷: Adrian Pope
— Barbican Centre (@BarbicanCentre) June 21, 2017
From one simple brief came an amazing diversity of stories, told in all kinds of formats from short-stories to snaps. Some people created mini-works of fiction, others saw familiar surroundings with fresh eyes, and some people shared an insight into their world boldness and honesty.
— RuaridhOD (@eskissorhands) June 21, 2017
— Melanie McGrath (@mcgrathmj) June 21, 2017
Some of the most powerful stories came from people who used the exercise as a way to share their real experiences of things like loneliness and living with schizophrenia.
— Cece Alexandra (@cece_alexandra) June 21, 2017
It was triumphant. In just one day, we reached more than 28million people, and was the number one trending topic on Twitter - beating the Queen’s speech to the top spot, sorry ma’am.
We’re so proud to have had the honour to work with First Story and to have been part of the inaugural National Writing Day. Until next time, remember you can exercise your writing muscles any day, just pick a window and tell your story.