MohanaI've just spent four hours with 13 other writers, immersing ourselves in a workshop that involved 'prompt writing': exercises that you get entirely fresh, no preparation, and with a time limit.

The goal is to generate as much material as possible – first draft writing – and the emphasis is on the act of generation, rather than grammar, spelling, or the tasks that come with revision.

This is the fifth such session I’ve organised for the writers’ workshop I run. Despite it being the first day of the weekend (here in the Middle East) we left more energised than when we straggled in at 2pm.

After the 15 or so minutes of writing (or typing) as fast as you can, you have the opportunity to share your work out loud. The electricity felt as people read and heard fresh comments on what stood out from their particular pieces was palpable; if only you could bottle this kind of energy up and have it on hand when you trudge to your desk, alone, at home.

But this energy can be replicated. Perhaps not every day, but by joining a bi-monthly or weekly writers’ group you could get the sustenance you need for those hours of solitary work at the kitchen table or in carefully planned study.

For my next few posts, I will trace how I established the Doha Writers’ Workshop, out of sheer desperation for a writing community in an often physically and then artistically arid landscape. Hopefully you will glean some ideas of how to start a group of your own, or chime in to offer suggestions from groups you have participated in.

For now we will start with founding rule number one: writers may create, rewrite, and edit alone, but every writer needs readers.

Readers who give you feedback or ask clarifying questions are necessary; those who engage your story and offer suggestions are a goldmine. Often it’s best if this group isn’t your mother or Aunt Sally and if you are interested in being published commercially, an established readership is paramount to getting an agent or publisher interested in your work.

Who are your readers? How (and how often) do you receive feedback on your work?

Best wishes,


(Reading & Writing Development Director)