On writing classes

In this post I want to write about writing classes. They are a new phenomenon for me. For years – I don’t know why – I resisted investing any money in my writing. I went to all manner of other night classes (Spanish, Chinese, philosophy…) but not the one thing I’d always wanted to do with my life. I really can’t remember why that was. The idea of doing an MA had always been in my head, but I was leaning more towards International Development, or something ‘useful’. Something that might help my career.  Which as it turned out wasn’t a career I even wanted.  I think I felt writing was too frivolous to invest thousands in. I thought I would never succeed, so why try?

Now that I’ve actually been doing well, I wonder what took me so long. The class I go to is only about £100 a term and I get so much out of it. The first time you send your work out to strangers, it’s like those dreams where you’ve gone into school naked (or is that just me?). It’s terrifying to be so stripped raw. But the next time is much easier, and the next. In my short experience, everyone is kind. After all, it’ll be them next week, and none of us is perfect.

We’ve had some invigorating discussions – is it possible to masturbate with a severed hand? Do boys of 13 even know how to have sex?  – and come up with the concept of ‘IPDs’, or irrelevant personal disclosures. You know, when someone makes a comment that sends eyebrows skyward all round the class – I’m sure we all do it at some point. We’ve had all manner of issues over emails, documents, and printing. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve gone ‘YUCK’. I suppose an MA must be the same, but with more time, and longer together as a group. But is it worth seven grand? Still haven’t worked that one out.

We’ve also had some sad moments, some downright scary, some hilarity. And our post-pub sessions are one of the highlights of my week. Being a writer, even an aspiring one, is lonely and unrewarding and often feels stupid. It’s great to be around people who, if you asked them their greatest dream, wouldn’t say money or fame or Caribbean holidays, like most of the population. They’d just say to get a publishing deal (which would hopefully lead to those other things, right?) It’s great not to seem crazy when you talk about your characters and how changing their name would be agony, or how they start to do things you hadn’t quite imagined, or whether you write sex scenes that cut straight to ‘So, the next morning….’ (I do) or go into eye-popping detail about caresses and, you know, texture and stuff (as others do).

My point is I wish I’d done it much sooner. And if anyone is wondering whether it’s worthwhile, do it NOW. If you’re serious, if you’re ready to give and receive feedback, you’ll never regret it.

Just remember to send everything in RTF, or all manner of hell will break loose.

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