“I’m really nervous about reading my work out,” said my new student, “I’ve never written creatively before.”
This might seem perfectly understandable coming from a newbie except this student was senior sub-editor for a well-known fashion magazine which shall remain nameless (it begins with ‘V’ and has London, Paris and New York editions). It was me, as teacher, who should have been nervous.
Yet this reaction is typical whether you’re an editor, a plasterer or a stay-at-home-mum. Creative writing involves exposing your thoughts, your dreams and possibly your intellectual inadequacies and lack of talent.
All new writers (or least those who are not deluded or arrogant) worry that their ideas might seem dull or weird to other people. Will the rest of the class think I’m crazy? But it’s that uniqueness which makes other people’s stories fascinating. Of course, your first attempts will need improvement; you can acquire technical skills, increase your vocabulary, gain more understanding of your characters but that’s what the writing process is about. We practice; we rewrite; we learn from our mistakes and we get better.
Surprisingly, we find that other students enjoy what we write; they laugh at our jokes, tear-up at the sad bits; they make useful suggestions. In fact, no one is going to viciously trash your writing if only because they are going to read theirs out next. For the tutor, it’s uplifting to see a new writer’s first, faltering baby-steps become gigantic Hussain Bolt type strides over the weeks, months and years. Creative writing is not a quick-fix skill; it grows slowly depending on how much time and effort you devote to it. Every professional writer knows this; early published work can be very different to more accomplished, mature output.
That’s all very well, you might say, but I can’t physically read stuff in front of other people. My mouth dries up; my hands shake. But you can overcome nerves especially as you grow to know and trust the tutor and other students. You’ll probably be in a small group in a cosy pub backroom, not the Albert Hall. Plus there are lots of tricks available to help build confidence and overcome fears. You can picture your audience naked, for example, though I’d prefer it if you didn’t do so in my class. You can visualise a successful reading and an enthusiastic response instead of imagining a total skirt-in-knickers/flies-undone disaster which can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if all else fails there’s usually an aspiring actor in class who’ll read your work for you so don’t let self-doubt stop you exploring your creativity. You’ll never know if you can write unless you start now!
Ardella Jones

Our Wrote It? Quote It! writing and performance workshops start 8th December and are perfect for the shy and the flamboyant alike.