Ness gets to grips with her first story on our Gaucin course
Writing creatively is a messy, emotional business, fraught with self-doubt and self-consciousness, thwarted by procrastination. Not writing creatively is equally messy: motivated by fear, justified by self-deception, haunted by regret. Creative writing tutors need doctorates in psychology rather than literature. So let’s get to grips with the denial:
1. I don’t know what to write but I want to. You have to start somewhere so jot in a notebook. Tell yourself it’s not important and no one’s going to see it. Write about anything – the colour orange, orang-utans, Oslo. Once you have something down on paper, you have something that can be improved. Once you start writing amazing, unexpected things happen; new ideas pop out of the creative ether; characters take on independent life.
2. I have an idea but it’s rubbish May be it is pants (the self-doubt thing); try writing it and see. Remember you’re unique and your ‘dull’ may be someone else’s ‘fascinating’. Ideas change and develop too; your hot, high concept idea for a novel may turn out to have only enough mileage for a short story; you won’t find out unless you start writing it.
3. I can’t write personal stuff You don’t have to, that’s the purpose of fiction. A story may be informed by your emotions, your experience of life as a human, but it can be set in outer space, pre-history or Wigan and involve characters who bear no resemblance to you. That’s much more fun than thinly disguised, constipated auto-biography and your mother won’t recognise you so you can include raunchy sex scenes or gratuitous violence.
4. I don’t have time to write but if I did…T.S. Eliot wrote The Wasteland working for Nat West bank; Buchi Emecheta wrote Second-Class Citizen at 5 am every morning while her five children slept; Jeffrey Archer wrote Kane and Abel whilst running the country…maybe I should stop there. My point is you can make time: stop playing Candy Crush; switch off your Facebook notifications; don’t watch bald blokes baking cakes. Writing will enrich your life far more than hand-ruching scatter cushions or cleaning your wire wheels with a toothbrush. Make notes on the tube; write for two hours on your days off; spend one day of your next holiday doing nothing except write.
5. I don’t want to write unless I’m really good at it. You will never know unless you try. And of course you can’t expect to be brilliant to start with. You fell off your first bike then wobbled along, didn’t you? Only fools write their first piece and think it’s a work of genius – (unless of course they’re geniuses and even they do second and third drafts). All writers have to learn and they never learn it all. It’s like yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar lived to be ninety-four and he could still have improved on his Sun Salute. But write and you will get better and gradually your skills will catch up with your taste and you’ll feel quite pleased with yourself.
In short, as Nike, goddess of trainers, said: Just do it.
Get started with our special Absolute Beginners workshop Saturday 1st November at lovely Balham Bowls Club and bring a friend free.