We are all sitting in the reception area of West Suffolk Regional College not making eye contact. Are all writers introverts? Discuss in no more than 250 words and 3 paragraphs. You have 20 minutes to complete the exercise. Welcome to wacky wild but very polite world of a creative writing course. Our host for the evening is Pat McHugh who I suspect has done this sort of thing before. What must she be thinking. “Oh good/god here we go again.” What motley band of miscreants near do wells and fantasists have decided that a degree of self actualization lies at the end of 10 weeks trying to write about themselves, a tree falling in a forest or even (god forbid) poetry! Don’t take that last sentence seriously I am just channeling the likely response of Charles Babbage one of the main characters in my book who hated poetry almost as much as he hated street musicians.
My rationale is clear, I am trying to write a novel. I have never attempted such an exercise. I need help guidence and insight into almost every aspect of the process, from point of view and tone to charater and plot development. As for the rest of our merry band of pranksters the reasons are many and various from just wanting to complete a piece that they are proud of; those wanting to hone their blogging skills; someone who believes there must be more to life (amen to that brother!); some like me who want to write a novel or short stories but need help and those that see writing as a form of catharsis and self development. Some are here for the first time and some are repeat offenders one of whom is here because ………well actually I have no idea why they are here, but it is their choice and we respect that.
So the bulk of the evening is spent going round the room establishing our motives and alibis for being here and at the moment the only thing we have in common is the very real fear that none of us will be able to find this room again next week having followed Pat through a labaryinth of school corridors that all look exactly the same. Finally we get the chance to do some actual writing. The challenge is as follows. In no more than ten minutes write about an early childhood memory. We all scribble wander around stare into space until told to stop. We are then all asked to read out our meagre offerings and accept the encouragement and praise that is/is not our due. We are given homework, 250 words on an object that is important to you. Describe it and explain why it is important. You will note that both exercises are rooted in the individual. As I said in the last blog “write what you know” and for us this is the tried and tested way to start taking our baby steps. Don’t try to create something new reflect on what you already know and put it into words. Here is what I came up with in my ten minutes.
My brother and I are sitting on the steps in front of the French windows. The summer sun is filtered through the garden’s growth and the gentle breeze creates dappled motion on the two of us. We have a saucepan a colander and a large brown bag arranged between us. The bag contains fresh peas secure, for the moment, in their green amour. We are engaged in fecund activity at the behest of our mother who has asked us to shell the peas into the saucepan. However we are engaged in a ferocious pea battle. Running our fingers along the margin to reveal the fresh peas within then then flicking them at their giggling target as fast as possible. The colander is full of spent green cartridges and the saucepan remains empty except for the few that bounce off their intended target and fall in, and we are surrounded by a squishy green carpet, a testament to our industry and application to the task at hand.
See you all next week.