Sunday, 7 September 2014

What Am I Doing Here?

It's a question I ask myself more often than I'd like to admit, especially at this time of year - trying to get back into some kind of routine after the summer holidays. In the supermarket, in meetings, finding myself at a desk gazing at columns of data wondering about the characters behind the numbers. Not to mention arriving at the top of the stairs, KNOWING there WAS a reason for the climb just not quite able to recall what that might have been. Just me? I'm guessing not ...

About the only time I'm thoroughly safe from this existential angst (or age related short term memory fail) is when I'm in my writing groups. There I am so thoroughly immersed ... So completely and utterly absorbed in the fun of being creative ... Liberated.

We had our fist JustWrite session in Chorlton a couple of weeks back. A taster session, through which we hoped to generate some interest and enthusiasm and capture a few interested people to sign up to the monthly sessions. Reader, we were overwhelmed. People, wonderful writerly people just kept arriving. I always take at least twice as much stuff as I imagine I might need when I'm leading anything ... But fast thinking to adjust plans was required when we realised just how many there were. 28 of us in total. The fabulous staff at the Cafe who had stayed to join in didn't get the chance to sit down once. By the time they'd served free coffee and cake, danced around me to clear it away, served break time refreshments. There just wasn't time for them to think. They were VERY gracious. The success of the night definitely down to team work ... ALL the team at the cafe and all of the enthusiastic writers who came willing to give it a go. And with all the activities, and refreshments, and getting to know each other - there wasn't time for any of us to wonder, or even care WHAT we might be doing there, we were simply too busy - too busy doing writing, being writers.

The only way to get better at writing is to WRITE ...
'Exercise the writing muscles everyday, even if it's only a letter, notes, a title, list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes, without that exercise, the muscles seize up.'  
Jane Yolen
BUT, as anyone who has ever seated themselves with a blank sheet of paper, a pen/keyboard, and writerly ambitions will appreciate - Knowing what to write can be really hard.
'The root problems of the writer are the personality problems ... The writer's demon is imprisoned by the various ghosts in the unconscious.'
Dorothea Brande
Brande's argument that the aspiring writer must, over and above everything, invest time into building confidence as a writer, build respect for themselves as writers and thereby become liberated TO write, is as compelling today as it was when her book was first published in 1934. It doesn't sound quite so original now of course, there's LOTS of compelling arguments made to bully encourage writers to write. #JustWrite! 
Some people don't need this, of course. Some people do JustWrite, confidently, successfully - I am both fascinated and a little jealous of such people in much the same way as I am about people who are naturally slim. 'Oh you can eat anything, how lovely ... No, you don't think so? You think that's normal? Oh ...' Meanwhile I manage to catch fat from cake by walking past it ... Reader, I never walk past cake ... BUT since I've been writing everyday, since I've been building my confidence as a writer, given myself permission to have-a-go, my writing is better.
What I'm doing at the writing groups is making sure we all have lots of ideas for our writing. Our sessions are all about trying out lots of exercises to spark our writing brains into action, to inspire our creative ideas and enthusiasm so that when we sit down to write on our own we have more confidence to get us across the page, so that we build respect for ourselves as writers and feel liberated to write.
'The different ways inspiration occurs is a constant source of wonder, but it comes from engagement of one form or another, not from fretting over a blank page.'
Trish Nicholson
Happy writing ...