I consider myself to be a card-carrying pacifist but one thing which triggers me is when people say Who me? I can’t write!
So how do I start?
~ Question One ~
It’s a two-part process. Listen to yourself – the stories you tell your family, your neighbours, your co-workers, and more intimately your best friend, your lover, and most revealing of all, what you tell yourself. These are the roots from which your Creative Writing pieces will grow.
The second process is much harder. Have the confidence to write these stories down. This is what most people mean when they say they can’t write. They fear they don’t have the crafting to make their words earn a place on a page. Sadly, as an ex-teacher, I suspect that all too often this is because of their experiences at school. Writing, for many, has come to mean words which can be crossed through with red biro, which can open the writer up to comparison and ridicule. Of course, our words would never compare to the pieces into which we were slam-dunked at school, written by men of their time such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth, or Hemingway.
But why should they? If they were told to write about our lives, in our Voices which have been painstakingly developed throughout our lifetimes so far, could they do it? I think not…and not without a fair amount of red biro marks to boot.
Who would want to listen to my Voice?
~ invariably Question Two ~
“A writer’s voice is an incredibly delicate instrument made up of all the places he or she has been, all the persons loved and lived with, all the cultural nuances of original neighbourhood, workplace, home, country, continent, historical period and personal story”.
(Writing Alone and with others, Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press, 2003)
Writers say they write for different audiences, some for themselves, some for others. Some people write because they can’t help it. That inner nagging, that imp on their shoulder with a pitchfork, will be heard. They have stories to tell, truths to reveal, perspectives to show which must out. Others write as catharsis. They empty themselves onto white sheets, cleansing and clearing scars and wounds, old and new. Some write just for themselves, to remember and revere the magical and significant in their past. Still others want to share their memories, the people they’ve known, experiences they’ve been through. They want others, their families and friends, the world in general, to know of their journey.
Have I written my story correctly?
~ Question Three ~
Here’s the crux of it! The scars of those red biros, the slights over faulty grammar or misspelt words have left wounds in many psyches. For this reason, it is important to find the Writing Group which fits you. It must have a Safe Space at its core into which you can confidently place your writing and know your Voice will be respected. There must be a clear – and often stated – policy that work will not be shared outside the Group without a writer’s permission. Search for a class which collectively helps you craft your writing, hones your skills, and finds the best way for you to tell your stories in your unique Voice.
And that’s not to say that a writing group may not have some red biro in it, but in a group which is the right fit for you, it will be of the supportive variety. A writing group is doing you no favours if they don’t encourage you to grow and challenge you to improve. You don’t follow a weekly gym routine in order to stay in the same shape. Those challenges will however be given with respect. Shop around. You rarely buy the first pair of shoes you try on. We are lucky in that there are now many online courses available. If you prefer face-to-face contact but are on a waiting list for a local group which is full, don’t waste time. Go online until a space becomes vacant somewhere suitable.
Remember that everyone in any creative writing group in the world has had an It’s my First Time Here experience; has built up their confidence slowly; read out their first pieces from a page which shook in their hands. We all have to – as the confident youth of today say –
learn to get over ourselves.