Thursday 6 June 2013

Born to be a writer?

Books - a shining light for a writer
This week JW pointed me in the direction of some interesting pieces of work: Maria Takolander's 'On not being born to write' and Dallas Baker and his critical work. Both of which got me thinking and I  intend to explore more. Here are some of my initial musings which I will develop over time but am currently thinking out loud or 'out blog'!

How many times have you heard that saying 'I was born to write' - numerous I imagine. Of course we are born to write because we are all born and with that birth comes the ability to learn to use language. It is up to us how we do that and what we do with that ability afterwards.  What happens to us and our writing often develops out of socio cultural identities not out of genes. Inevitably I find writers are often vociferous readers. One seems to feed the other. The love of reading could be a catalyst which both informs and encourages the aspiring writer to be brave and put pen to paper. I thought Takolander's statement 'good writing comes out of good writing' to be very pertinent.

I have sisters who say to me, 'I don't know how you do it, how do you come up with ideas. I couldn't do it.' But I actually think they probably could given the time, the space and the encouragement to do so. When I say space what I mean is 'head space' not necessarily 'a room of one's own' Woolf style (though I can't deny that does help). Space away from life and all its pressures allowing your brain  time to stop, think and create.

Talking of that space to write, Takolander goes on to discuss creative writing degrees where she highlights how courses often state they cannot teach the art but they can teach the craft. Art as she pointed out is such a loaded term. There is an element of elitism attached to it while the term craft seems more accessible.This begs the question though who decides what is art and what is craft? When does craft become art? I have no answers yet but am working on it.

I have said this before, creative writing degrees are an opportunity to find your voice. Try on others until you get to the one that fits you the best - as per Al Alvarez quote which I know I have used numerous times before. If you are a writer on your own you rarely take risks or dip your toe in different styles of writing. You make a decision about what sort of writer you think you are, often based on your favourite books to read, and only focus on that. Sometimes that can be a big mistake. The number of times my students have come to me and said that they had done 'X' module which they thought they would hate but instead they have fallen in love. Particularly in their first year where they have a chance to explore four genres: fiction, scriptwriting, poetry and creative non fiction. They might have preset ideas about what they will and won't like. It is interesting to watch those ideas being tipped upside down. I did it myself. I had a very set idea what sort of writer I was until I did my degree. It had never occurred to me to write for young adults. Now I can't imagine writing for anyone else. That all happened because I had the opportunity to try the YAF voice on.

Another thought came out of one of the many tangential conversations I have with IC. We were discussing the fact that if you are a musician, a dancer, sportsperson, artist etc you are likely to have spent many years training (often costing thousands in money and time) so that you can become the best you possibly can. Why should this be any different with writers? A creative writing course is certainly a way of undertaking some of that training. There are a myriad to pick from.

Briefly I will touch on Baker who made some fascinating points where he relates creativity and critical reflexivity with the Foucauldian idea of the aesthetics of existence and self-bricolage. A bit like my idea above of your writerly person being created out of your socio cultural moment. It would make this blog too long to explore that here but I will do at some point because I have been doing some work on web of identities and gyres that I would like to relate it to - watch this space.

It has been a long old week and I know it is only Thursday but that should tell you everything. We are heading towards the summer when I can focus more on my own work and make some pretty heavy decisions but hopefully I will have that head space that will allow me to be creatively critical and critically creative.

How about a bit of Cohen?

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating Vanessa - till you got to 'Briefly I will touch on Baker who made some fascinating points where he relates creativity and critical reflexivity with the Foucauldian idea of the aesthetics of existence and self-bricolage. ' Sorry - I need subtitles in thickese.