The Mrs (a writer too) has been talking to a mate of ours about whether she (the mate) should do a writing course. Leaving aside that it’s taught by people neither of us have ever heard of, and that I’d personally rather be taught by someone who’d published some at least, rather than very little if anything, it has lead me to start thinking about the whole courses thing.
I teach very occasionally, when other people ask me, when they are doing the bothersome work of setting it all up – and when I’m getting paid. But what I’m thinking about now is how I never quite get why people feel the need to go away to write. Or to ask other people to tell them how to write.
Just about the best thing about writing is that you really can do it by yourself. You don’t need permission, you don’t need a ticket or a degree or whatever it is you think you need, you just need some time and some space (not all the time or all the space) and then you (we all) need to get on with it.
I’m sure courses can be good. I’ve taught some lovely ones, had a great time doing it, and hope (believe) I’ve been useful in doing so. And some of them have been in great locations. But I’m sure some courses can be rubbish too. I know it’s nice to go away. But I really really don’t think it’s a prerequisite. And very few of the (published) writers I know go away to write. They write at home or in a rented office and they get on with it. It’s their job. Not their holiday.
Shelley thinks we should teach a course (!) called : HOW TO WRITE OUTSIDE YOUR WORLD WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HOME. And she’s right, we could. Or you (we) could just get on and do it anyway.
So here’s my ten pointer for doing just that :
1. It’s not about writing in cafés or bars or bookshops, it’s about writing.
2. Practice writing at home. Being by the sea will not make you a better writer, nor will being in the country. It may, in fact, encourage you to go for walks instead of writing.
3. If you ask ten people what they think of your book, you’ll get ten different responses. Ask yourself (be honest!), and ask one or two very trustworthy/respected others.
4. Stop talking about doing it and writing about doing it and going to classes to learn how to do it and just do it. (And keep doing it until/as you get better at it.)
5. A new notebook will not make you write better. It is just a new notebook. (cf, new mac, new laptop, new pencil.)
6. Going somewhere you’ve always wanted to go is not the same as writing. Travel is fine and research is fine and libraries are fine and even google is fine too, but if it’s fiction, then making it up is a pretty good start. And making it up involves doing the writing.
7. You probably do not need to do another course, you probably just need to finish your book/story/play/film. And then edit it, re-write it, make it better.
8. Stop working on new ideas when you haven’t finished this one.
9. It isn’t supposed to be fun all the time, that’s why it’s called work.
10. Write. Stop reading other people’s opinions on how to write and write. Now.