I’m very much looking forward to this working with Writing Events Bath on February 17th. It’s easy to get blown off course when you’re in the middle or near the end of a long writing project. This workshop helps writers connect with and articulate their own literary aesthetic; and remember what they love about reading and writing. Participants will take away a series of self-generated expressions of their taste, choice and passion in and for prose fiction.
- My wonderful agent, Sophie Gorell-Barnes, is sending Hospital High out to publishers,
- I met with my new writing group and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I feared, and
- I’m recording with BBC Radio Four this afternoon…something about writers and their love of stationery.
It feels like a proper writer’s week… Of course, I’m most comfortable in my dressing gown, typing away in my room. But that’s no way to run a whole career. Fine for a hobby, but not for a life…
I used to teach a class for my second years about how to get published. For a year, it was made compulsory, and as I was walking up the stairs I overheard one boy say to another, ‘I don’t want to learn this sh*t. I just want to write.’
When we got into class, I announced that I had overheard this conversation. The class was shocked and silent, rather fearful of my reaction. I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you something. I don’t want to do this sh*t, either. I want to live in my room, write whatever I want and have money and food slid to me under the door. But that’s not going to happen for me and it’s not going to happen for you. So let’s get our pads and pencils out and learn how it really works.’
No matter what your creative endeavour, I urge you to get out and about a little this week. Go to a workshop or a fair. Talk to people about it a bit more. The rewards can be absolutely amazing, once you manage to get over the threshold of your room…
…even if it’s just to go over to someone else’s room! (Thanks to Peter and his cat! For more about Peter’s wonderful nature and environmental writing, click on the photo.)
I had a bath before noon. That means it’s not a writing day – but I’m still working on my book… I’m going to my new writing group.
One of the great things about teaching is that you tend to grow your own friends. This group is, at its core, an extraordinarily good workshop class I taught a few years ago. Since I’m really having to stretch myself with this narrative voice, I’m eager to get ongoing feedback…the kind I can’t get from colleagues or my wonderful agent. So, I’m joining the group…taking advantage of the skills I helped them to learn.
Showing your work is always a bit frightening. What if you’ve fooled yourself, and it’s completely pants? So it’s good to work with people you trust. That trust is only built up over time…you can only tell if you can work with people once you’ve worked with them. The most important thing, I think, is finding people with whom you can communicate well. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing the same kind of thing, but it matters that you can understand each other and understand what each writer is trying to do.
You need to be fairly certain what you ARE trying to do, in the cut and thrust of workshopping. You have to be ready to learn whose advice is sound on what kinds of issues. You have to be prepared to continually evaluate what people say, and what you feel.
But the sense of camaraderie, the great relief of having someone to talk to about your daily work, the opportunity to have other people helping you with craft ideas…well, that’s such a great relief and benefit that I can’t wait to see them today.
I’d better go and dress.
Why do we do it?
No, I’m serious, here. Why write full length fiction?
The drawbacks are immense… Unless you are very fortunate you will be underpaid and have to balance your writing life with another professional life, so you are working two jobs. Your entire life revolves around making things with words…so when you sleep/what you eat/what you drink etc., are all governed by your writing time. Your family must either be trained or escaped, and it puts a strain on all relationships…it takes very understanding friends to know that when you disappear for months on end, you still care for them but are only on a roll. And then, at the end of all that, two words from a publisher or reviewer can make you feel it’s all been a waste of time and effort.
Life is a whole lot easier if you don’t write books.
Last week, I ran my ‘big ideas’ workshop for the redoubtable Alex and Jude’s Writing Events Bath. And as we talked about what a novel actually was, I felt the whole room’s desire to make one themselves. That desire hasn’t gone away in me, either. If anything, it’s gotten stronger with all the years and ups and downs.
Why write? Because you have to. Because you can’t stop. Because it’s the whole point of life.
Here’s a group from the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing and MA in Writing for Young People. We’ve just finished my imagery workshop and we’ve all had a lovely time doing it – you can see by our faces.
I love teaching writing – to anyone. But it’s especially fun to teach people who have been writing for a few years. And my favourite workshop of all is the FPIW, as above.
I love it when the participants discover that they can calm their minds. I love it when they are really concentrating on their senses and writing things down. I love it when they are sharing things with each other and working to make them better. And I especially love telling them, over and over, that they don’t have to try to be special when they write, that they already are special.
If you’d like me to come and run my workshop for your group, please go here and ask.
If you can’t do that, please remember: No one else has ever experienced the world the way you do – and no one else ever will. Get that in your writing and you’ll never look back.