Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The passion of writing and teaching

Paperface commented on the last blog: about wanting to write... and wanting to teach writing? I must hasten to say it's not a job -- it's a life.

I think that writing and teaching each have at their hearts a generosity. Or maybe it's a compulsion to share. Paradoxically, it is selfish at the same time. Or I find it so. Because both are creative and need interiority and time, time away from people, in order to find the stuff... the what-you-want-to-say. I need journal-writing time, thinking time, researching time if it's that kind of thing, reading time, organising time, admin time, actual originating time, editing or going-out-to-teach time.

You're right, it sounds like a full time job. Good thing my husband is a creative person too -- we hole up in our corners and get on with our projects. However, none of the above pays much at all; hardly at all what a 'real job' pays. You've just got to love it, the life and the creative satisfaction.

Of course I left out another big important element: procrastination time! That's where teaching is so useful -- a class awaits, so that's a real deadline. And there's the lovely person-to-person engagement of direct communication -- an antidote to the shut-away time.

To all who wish they were novelists -- half your battle is done. The main secret is to WANT to write. The next is to actually write. That's what the teaching is about... leading the want into the do.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Stone Writing

I said stone, not stoned! Here is a stimulus exercise I love to teach.

Confession: if you have arrived at this blog from my Paxton Publishing Matrix website, it's the one I used on the termly 'sample inside' page. Okay, yah, saving my energies. But tune in next blogweek and you'll find something new. So, the exercise:

Just like collecting postcards to use in class, I love picking up stones or shells when out in nature. In fact, I can't resist -- it's not for teaching, it's for me. So, out walking or in a shop, collect a small boxful of semi-precious stones in their wondrous variety of colours, textures and patterns. You can add stripey, sparkly or textured stones picked up at the seashore and rocky streams. Or run a variation on this, using seashells.

Find a good container, say of rattan or woven grasses for an elemental feel, or of velvet or lacquer, associating with valuable treasures. Proffer the container, letting students choose one of nature’s objects, then contemplate, bubble and write for 10 minutes -- whatever comes to mind.

This usually brings excellent freewheeling results, but some other time you can prompt them if you wish, for instance:

  • Where has this been?

  • What does your stone remind you of?

  • Who found, or who treasures this natural item, and why?

  • If it could talk (or if it had a smell, or if it was once a person)

And now for good news: my Hero's Journey/Writer's Journey class has made healthy numbers in the great enrolment gamble, so ho for a new cohort of heroes starting this week.

Winchester Writer's Conference 3-5 July 2009, and I have a lecture slot. Here's the link, more on it next time.