I’ve spent around 4 hours this morning looking at creative writing courses, everything from one-day intensives to MA degrees via evening classes and online courses.
I feel terrible.
I’m supposed to be writing, not allowing fears about the quality of my writing stop me from lifting a finger. I do want to improve, but I’m worried that I’ll use a class as an excuse not to write big stuff and am not sure what it is I need to learn. Focused on creative process or technical? And how – intensive or weekly? Or is it really feedback I want? Is a class or a writing circle better?
And all the while, I’m supposed to be working on a novel. A novel I rushed into too quickly and am stuck on. I don’t know how the world works. I don’t know how the main characters meet or why one will sabotage the other. I’ve really only thought about the main plot line. Small wonder I’ve stalled.
I’ve been pushing myself to write, because I feel I need to write more and more and more to improve.
Then I remembered another day I spent ‘messing about’ on the internet. I was in Bali to write a novel but it wasn’t going well. It was a writing day though so I refusing to let myself walk to the beach or jump in the pool even though I blatantly wasn’t writing, so it would be neither here nor there where I procrastinated.
Anyway. Instead of writing I searched compulsively for large houses in England where I could hold a writing retreat. For hours and hours. I felt terrible. What sort of a lame excuse for a writer not only can’t write when they’ve come to a tropical paradise for the explicit purpose of writing, but then they procrastinate by looking for other places to write?
A while after that day somebody suggested that maybe my calling in life is helping other writers and creating spaces for them, rather than actually being a writer myself. Not quite at the end of the sentence, she practically slapped her hand over her mouth and backpedaled quickly. After all, I’d left my job to write.
But maybe she had a point. I’m running a week-long writing retreat in Devon in a house I found that day. Without this cunning plan I’d have had to find another job by now, when I want to keep doing this, writing and seeing other writers leap forward. More importantly though, I’m really excited about this retreat. Funnily enough, although I’m looking forwards to the writing time, it’s looking after the other writers and what I’m going to cook for them that’s got me excited. I can’t wait to run this retreat, and the next one and the one after that. The day may come (I hope it does) when I look back and realise that day of ‘useless’ browsing changed my life and, I hope, the lives of many other writers.
Who knows where this morning’s session will lead. I desperately want to do a creative writing MA at NYU, but can’t afford the fees (seriously, any philanthropist out there want to lend me a hand, or any immigration lawyer know of a way of working in New York so I can afford to go?). Maybe my search for alternatives will lead me, in a very wibbly line I’m sure, to a future that doesn’t seem possible at the moment. These meanderings feed the future and open up new options.
Maybe I need to let myself nibble the edges of my current novel, rather than constantly putting on pressure to get the word count up, to get to act 2, to get it finished. Maybe I need to meander through the world I’ve created until the moment I know what’s going on.
Maybe I just need to accept that writing isn’t always linear and chill out, right?