We are now half way through our Creative Writing workshops at the Edge Cafe, and I am looking toward selecting pieces for the chapbook anthology we are preparing. In the meantime, we have our third guest blog, this week thoughts on writing practice are by Lisa Evans.
Daring to be Sharing
I guess if I had to say what writers have in common, I’d say we are all feeling our way to some sort of order, some sense of what feels right and learning to trust our instincts. All this while swimming in a sea of the glorious end results of other people’s best works and an ever increasing life experience. It’s tough. I want to share some things I’ve found to help.
It’s probably too much to ask that every moment as a writer should be nice, but on the whole I want it to be enjoyable, if for no other reason that to escape the perfectionism that I recognised too well when Munizha described it in the last post.
When I sit down to write I tend to be in a earnest frame of mind and somehow feel it’s my job to convey a solemn truth. Such pressure! Usually I’m writing from things I’ve researched or autobiographically. Approaching writing as truth telling is a great intention but it misses out on the joy of imagining the many things outside my experience and the simpler daily pleasures.
Also I want to write everyday but I don’t always have the energy to be earnest. To write regularly I need to feel energised and entertained by my own work.
Writing games really help give this variety. I came up with some myself, like I made a little book out of scrap paper and went for a walk and wrote scenes from the walk on each page. Hey presto I’ve written a book – albeit one with eight pages. I call anything that gives me a boost like that a writing game.
Other games came from online courses. Along with learning some poetry forms and how to write to beats when it suits a story, I did the course assignments which I think of as games, although I didn’t go so far as to submit my work for peer review as is encouraged
That’s where I’ve been lately, having a great time learning, writing, being free and not sharing! Well not sharing beyond friends and my niece and nephew. Sharing creative work feels like a whole new skill. I admit that there is some perfectionism here – I don’t want to share work until I’m really happy with it. But some of this is a legitimate concern. Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way encourages a careful nurturing of creative talents. She describes a creative block where you don’t create because of too many negative thoughts, like you think the work isn’t good enough. She warns of blocked friends who “find your recovery [of creativity] disturbing. Your getting unblocked raises the unsettling possibility that they too could become unblocked and move to authentic creative risks rather than bench-sitting cynicism”, she also describes crazymakers who “are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive and powerfully persuasive” but they can disrupt and confuse other people’s creative development.
In this digital age where we have so many opportunities to publish our work, how to we find an outlet that is right for us? I’m not entirely sure of my rights over my own work when I share on someone else’s website. The legality is not always made clear. Also reading the comment sections of articles about some artists makes me sure there are blocked friends and crazymakers out there. It’s brutal!
But what is the point of creative writing if I don’t open it up to people’s reactions? I know that at this stage sharing my work on my website will elicit almost no reactions as practically no one knows me. But given time I hopefully might gather a small audience and I want to be happy dealing with that and still writing.
This creative writing group has been a big part of my solution to sharing. You have to care about your creative work to leave the comfort of your home or office and spend a couple of hours writing and reading the results (although there’s no pressure to read out). Happily other creative writers are making the same journey. Sharing in this environment makes me more motivated the create – which has been a nice surprise for me. Another probably even nicer surprise is just how much I enjoy other writers work. So that’s what this group is to me: people making sense of themselves through others. What could be better than that?
About The Author
Lisa Evans made websites for the charities SOS Children and the Open Knowledge Foundation and wrote and researched for The Guardian for a couple of years. Currently making comics, both writing or researching the stories and drawing the pictures, with the aim of having a stall at a comic conference and sharing some digital comics online.
Creative Writing at The Edge is supported by
Cambridge City Council, Oblique Arts and The EDGE Cafe