This is what I've learnt so far:
- 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.
- To read widely and with a more critical eye. I've branched out into new genres and new authors.
- 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...
- 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.