I didn’t call myself a writer for years. I thought only posh* people were writers, the kind of people who’d grown up knowing other people who worked in the arts, who were ‘connected’, who had mums and dads who didn’t work in a timber mill, who knew how to get jobs in the arts, how to contact agents (I didn’t grow up knowing what an agent was either), how to sell the work that was of and from themselves.
I was a writer though. I had been making up stories since I was tiny. I had been making up plays for me and my mates to do at school. There were no drama lessons, no creative writing courses, if we wanted to ‘make stuff up’ we did it ourselves. So we did. When I went to university – the first in my family by a very long way (my parents both left school at 14, my siblings at 15 and 16) – I continued to ‘make up’ plays and stories and, with mates, to ‘put them on’. We didn’t say ‘produce’ either. And we founded our university Drama Club because there wasn’t one – we didn’t call it ‘society’ because we thought it sounded fancier than we felt.
So we didn’t have the language, but we made the work. We made the work physically. We didn’t sit at desks and write (this was pre-computer anyway), we mucked around and worked out what made us laugh or moved us or excited us and we turned that into work we shared with other mates. We used our bodies and we made stuff up. We were improvising and devising long before I’d ever heard those words. Mostly we were playing.
That’s what I’ll be teaching at my Improv for Writers/Writing for Improvisers masterclass** for the Newcastle Improv Festival – playing. Like we did when we were kids. Playing and using our bodies (whatever bodies we have) to create, to make, to write. Playing and being daft and asking ourselves questions and trying out brave or silly or absurd or thrilling answers. Not trying to get it ‘right’ because there is no right. All there is, is trying. Giving it a go.
If you fancy trying with me (I have no answers, just lots of possibilities), if you’re ready to give it a go, if you’re after a day in which it’s ok to play and you’re ready to push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone (I’ll be beyond mine too, every workshop, even after all this time, is new, because it has new people), then come along. We’ll do some nice things. We’ll do some brave things. We’ll certainly do some writing! And with any luck you’ll go home with a few more tools to use towards your own work – writing, improvising, playing, making it up, getting it on the page.
Come! Make stuff up!
Book here. See you there.
* yes, I know lots of you don’t think people in the arts are ‘posh’, but we did when I was growing up. Which just goes to show how utterly inaccessible I found arts, artists & the ‘arts sector’ as a child and young person …
pic – me, aged about 3, outside our flat in Woolwich, south London, not knowing anyone in the arts – but doing my version of incy wincey spider anyway. Note handily-placed drainpipe/spout.