What do Milton, remote manors, literature and business writing have in common? Stuart Delves, co-founder of the Dark Angels creative writing for business courses, explains...

Dark Angels. Harleys, leather, goggles: none of these are mandatory, or have even been spotted on one of our courses. Goths? From Northumberland to Andalucia, not one has darkened our doors. Tattoos? Well I’ve seen one or two: tasteful, witty ones. We do tend to talk of ‘spreading your wings’ and we do like to sing.

Sound like a writing for business course? Mmm. Well, that’s what they are. Though we insert the word ‘creative’ before writing.

And the title is a reference to Milton and a nod to Paradise Lost. One of my fellow founders, John Simmons (the man who coined Verbal Identity), writes that “as Dark Angels, we are neither those who have fallen, nor those who have ascended, but we occupy the fertile, if broken ground in between. We find our creativity in our flawed human nature.”

We use a lot of literature (poetry and prose) as the basis of our exercises, as that’s where one finds the best writing and the best can inspire better writing, even in the world of business. Our contention is “why should anything that is printed, whether it’s an annual report or copy online, not be as elegantly written and engaging as it can be?”

To help people swallow this incredibly bitter pill, we gather in beautiful retreat-like houses, manors or colleges where there are log fires in the winter months and sunlit terraces in the late Spanish summers. And lots of wine, food, good cheer and laughter whatever the season.
Our lovely new website opens with the words:

In places that inspire

We help people

Find their voice
Back at work

A braver

New world awaits.

Well we don’t take people to a remote Bermudan island (yet) and getting to us doesn’t require a literal shipwreck, but we have as I say chosen special places, ‘enchanted’ sometimes it seems where, even without sprites, transformations sometimes occur so that the world, the office even, on return seems ‘new to thee’ – with the irony fully understood. Yes, it’s kind of a bit radical I suppose. And in our own way we’re a new kind of business – a 21st century brand - where place is a really important part of the mix.

Beautiful places inspire us of course, but place also roots us. Where are you? What do you see? What sounds do you hear? Describe that scent of moss or the rich smell of gravy from the kitchen. Place is concrete, colourful, infinitely varied. Drawing on this, breathing it in, touching it, writing it down – allows you to take a stand against the impenetrable abstraction that constitutes so much of business writing. It’s the first step. And it’s on solid ground.

I work in a beautiful city. Edinburgh. I seldom tire of it. The air is bracing. The light is clear. The views out to the hills and the Firth of Forth are uplifting. The buildings themselves, on so many intersecting, higgledy-piggledy levels, are as High MacDiarmid said, “A mad god’s dream.” Who could not be inspired?

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