What I learned from a two-day creative writing course

This blog post could also be called “How to spot the devil’s procrastination minions who are hiding everywhere and will bring your writing to a dead stop and how to vanquish them”.

The devil’s procrastination minions are clever and they can be hiding in the most unlikely places.

My creative writing work is one of the things I love the most in the world and certainly one of the activities that I do that make me feel energised and invigorated. Unlike my running, which makes me exhausted!

But after six weeks of full-on crazy plotting of a new project with a working title of “Gun Shy”, a couple of months ago, I went to bed one night and then didn’t touch it again for almost eight weeks. The frenzy stopped dead in its tracks. Not even a tiny inclination to open the laptop and re-read what I’d done. And I had been sooo excited by what was unfolding!

Sweet little lies

As the days stretched out and the laptop remained closed, I told myself this little factoid that aspiring writers whisper to themselves: “I”m letting the words settle. I’ll come back to it with a fresh mind and fresh eyes. Then I’ll attack it with new vigour.”

I realise now that it wasn’t me whispering these bittersweet nothings in my ears, but rather the devil’s procrastination minions.

I told myself (or the minions whispered) that I was going to come back to the plotting pot of gold – of almost 10,000 words – and find a half-formed (or almost well-formed) novel waiting for me, magically.

Then, I think I became afraid of opening the file and finding the words weren’t as magical as I thought they were. The inner critic (I’ve learned today that her name is Ethel – which will remain one of the most valuable things I take away from this writing class: naming and belittling my inner demonic critic) is sabotaging me and sucking the joy out of writing for me.

I was oblivious to the minions secretly whispering their toxic nothings in my ears UNTIL (dah duh daaaaah) I found myself enrolled in a weekend writing course. Five minutes into the first writing exercise light dawned on marble head – I wanted to be forced to crack open the laptop and be forced to write.

I enrolled NOT to learn about novel structure (although that is surely a major bonus), not to learn about point of view, or pace, or any of the other wonderful literary tools that come with the writing gig. Rather, I enrolled to be forced to write.

Remembering my why

And once I started writing, almost the moment my fingers struck the keys, I was instantly reminded of my why.

I enjoy writing because I love using language, love creating full, dynamic pictures with words, love creating stories, love drawing readers into my worlds.

Once the realisation had settled that I was enrolling for very different reasons than I first thought, I was able to sit back and enjoy learning from and engaging with the teacher and my fellow writer classmates.

The wonderful teacher, Angela Slatter, shared insights and experiences from the frontlines of the publishing world. Her tips and advice on how to become a better writer were invaluable and really reinvigorated my passion and ambition to become a published writer.

Equally inspiring were my classmates. The quality of the work they produced in the multiple 10-minute writing tasks we tackled was extraordinary. It challenged me to step up my writing and it was exactly what I needed. I needed to work harder at the words I put on a page, to brush aside the cliched imagery that comes easily to me and delve deeper. Thanks to the inspiration provided by my fellow writers I felt that I was starting to do that by the end of the second day. They were so good! Nobody wants to be the lame duck in the room!

A sample

Most of what I produced was absolute dross. I’m under no illusions about that. And the thing I like about my colleagues, nobody offered false platitudes. You had to work hard to produce a round of applause at the end of your reading (but not too hard!).

One of the writing tasks was to describe a setting.

This is the un-edited version of what I produced in 10 minutes, describing the meeting room we were sitting in. (I have resisted the urge to polish this writing, even though I can see where it needs a structural edit – there are paragraphs in the wrong place and an image that isn’t clearly teased out. But hopefully you can see what I’m aiming for…

 

Describing a place: This Room

This room encapsulates the very essence of Teneriffe. This room, like Teneriffe, is part of a larger, historical story of Brisbane.

This room is part of the historic wool stores that make this suburb famous. This room, part of Teneriffe, is in the richest suburb in Brisbane, where the median house price is $2.5 million.

This room was once part of a cavernous, double height warehouse, rich with the smell of lanolin and sheep, where bale upon bale of wool was brought in from around the state and prepared for shipping down the river.

However, this room, also epitomises the problems faced by Teneriffe.

This room is trying to be functional, funky and unique. The low office ceiling, stark cool-white fluorescent lights and durable cream carpets create a space that is neutral, bland and won’t offend – vital when you rent it out on a casual basis to a range of clients.

But this room has retained the original timber struts, in all their unvarnished glory, echoing back to a time when hundreds of wool balers and valuers strode the oiled timber floorboards barking prices and instructions to the labourers as they scribbled prices with black stubby pencils in their tiny notebooks.

This room, with its neutral Antique White USA wall colour palette is a contradiction. It contradicts the exterior, the bold, unique vast red brick facia of the Winchcombe Wool Stores. This room is bland, accented with faint whispers of history.

But. This room is also the cradle for creativity and is nurturing talent at this very moment. This room, with its white lacquered IKEA tables and chairs, its white walls, white ceilings and enormous ceiling-to-floor whiteboard is special and it is unique.

 

What’s next?

The course was a raging success for me. The spark of creativity is back and now it’s up to me to fan that into a flame. I’ve created a writing schedule that will hopefully provide more structure and discipline to my writing.

I’ve set some goals:

  • First draft of the ‘Flipping Out’ manuscript by December 31
  • Fully fleshed plotted ‘Gun Shy’ manuscript by December 31
  • Enter all remaining Furious Fiction competitions for the rest of the year
  • Join a writing group
  • Vanquish Ethel (or at least pummel her into silent submission for a while)

If you have any tips for me, I’m all ears! Equally, if you’d like to join my writing squad, I’m always looking for people to share the journey with and people who I can a) cheer on and b) be cheered on by! Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram and just say hi!

2 Responses

  1. Jules
    | Reply

    Good on you, Flick. Very glad you’ve got your mojo back!

  2. Erica Mors
    | Reply

    Structure, scaffolding, discipline and passion were the key points I gained from our two days exploring creativity, Plus pummelling our inner Ethels, while being generous of spirit and building one another up as we hone our writing skills. Looking forward to learning more, laughing more and supporting one another on this writer’s journey.

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