Monday, 28 November 2011

What I've learnt so far

Sixteen months ago I decided to sign up for a creative writing course with the Open University.  I completed the course successfully and one of my stories was shortlisted for the Ilkley Literature Festival.

This is what I've learnt so far:

  1. To keep a notebook.  I don't do this religiously, but I've done it enough to appreciate the value of recording passing thoughts and observations.  A five minute freewrite became the opening paragraph of one short story. The way a woman ate a cake in Café Nero showed character in another.  Even if I don't have time to write complete stories right now, filling my notebooks is building up my resources for a later date.
  2. To read widely and with a more critical eye.  I've branched out into new genres and new authors.
  3. To demystify the art of writing.  Even if great writing cannot be taught, I think that good writing can be.  Just as I learn to play a musical instrument, I can learn to play a language.  First, learn some basics and then practise. This leads me to...
  4. I am not my writing.  If am going to develop as a writer I have to objectify my work.  The ones who learnt most from the course were those who had the confidence to share their writing and learn from negative feedback.

I once taught English to an eminent French doctor.  He was seventy five and not in the best of health, but he was a determined student with a penchant for young English girls.

'If there's only one thing you do,' he told me, 'you must learn something new every day.'

And that's exactly what I try to do.

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