Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Running writing

I have never taken any formal writing classes other than the required English classes in high school. The schools that I went to emphasised content over form or function. Creative writing was viewed as either something suspect or something that produced material that needed to be learned and critiqued in suitably serious and boring essays. I actually did pretty poorly in English in senior high school, not helped by a personality clash with one teacher who pronounced my writing “too slick.”

As an undergraduate at university, writing was simply something that one did to fulfil requirements. It needed to be clear, logical, well-footnoted and preferably showing the wide range of one’s library research and reading. I was seen as somewhat artsy/odd for prefacing many of my history and politics essays with literary quotes. In the interval between graduation and post-graduate study I was busy trying to earn a living and realising that working 9 to 5 and some evenings was hard work

Grad school was a swirling chaos of classes, always-unfinished reading, assignments due, a new marriage, part-time work, new country and culture. I had neither the energy nor the inclination to write. This would have been a great time though to get involved in writing classes -- time when my focus was almost entirely on things of the mind. The Twin Cities offered many opportunities for classes and writing groups and I didn’t take any of them.

I came home to Australia with 1 ½ children, no home and no job. Within a few months we had moved to a new city, had two children and Mr. Blithe was working. For about a year I lost myself somewhere in nappy-strewn, toddler angst-ridden suburbia. I slowly emerged when we bought a house in Marburg and started embedding ourselves into a new life.

Out of this rose my desire to write. Admittedly my writing, like my blogging and my housekeeping, is of the slow variety. It’s sandwiched into my everyday life, but I am wondering if now is the time to concentrate more on the technical side of writing. In every other thing that I do, I have had to learn how to do it. I usually learn by reading, researching and doing. Writing this novel is one of the few things I have simply done – no books on plot or dialogue or the mechanics of writing.

I see other writers who are part of supportive writing groups, or who thank a wide range of people in their acknowledgements who have helped them with their writing. There is a writing group in Rosewood albeit one that meets at an inconvenient time. There is a library full of books on writing and books on books. Our library even has mp3 books on “How to write.”

I was contemplating downloading one of those and listening to it when I run on the treadmill in the mornings. That way I could multi-task and I might even learn something. On the other hand it might not be particularly motivating to hear someone talking about writing while running. Something with a bit more rhythmic bass might do the trick. But then the children might wake up and I’d be neither running nor writing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I took a a creative writing and two poetry writing courses in college and grad school, and found the creative writing and one of the poetry courses helpful. (The other poetry course was, at best, harmless.)

But when I think about joining a writer's group in NYC, I tend to back down. I don't want my work to sound 'work-shopped', smoothed down to fit into the group's box of good writing. Why do I think this would happen? I guess I've read too many poems that made me think 'Iowa Writers Workshop'.

Then again, in the two helpful courses, each of us were trying to write well in our own way. It wasn't about sounding like someone else; it was about making our own work both good and definitively our own.

Hm. You've given me something to think about, friend. Perhaps it's again time to take a chance.