The plan is backfiring.
This morning was the first session of six with the lovely Bead Roberts at Writing School Leicester. We’re writing a short story. Or few. And already I’m floundering in a sea of unimaginative excuses as to why I have writers’ block, even when the other nine individuals in the room can come up with SOMETHING, upon request. Whereas I can’t. Or won’t. I’m still not sure which.
It’s like Scrabble. All my friends and family have always assumed I’m great at Scrabble. And crosswords! “Oh Tash, she’s into books, she MUST be brilliant at Scrabble.”
Couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve always thought it’s the reporter instinct – give me a happening, an event, or whatever, and I’ll re-tell it. I’ll make it sound better or more pithy or more entertaining or just straight if that’s what you want. But ask me to INVENT something, for no reason at all, other than for the purpose of inventing, and I just draw blanks. Which as dedicated Scrabble players will tell you, score nothing.
The other students in the class are a varied bunch, some brave, others shy but everyone, every single one of them, when prompted, came up with something they weren’t so embarrassed not to share with the group.
Still, it was fun, and everyone was nice, and Bead, the tutor, is lovely in a sort of no-nonsense Radio 4 play writing sensible shoe wearing good humoured academic kind of way. Which is a good thing – as already covered on this blog, I’m a big R4 fan.
So I want to please her, I really do. Impress her, even. But I won’t do it unless I get over this stupid “I can’t think of anything” phase. A phase which has lasted ooh, YEARS now! Ridiculous. I listen to radio. I read newspapers. I speak to people, real people, all of the time. I have been places and seen things and observed and commented and memorised just like everyone else. So why can’t I recall any of these things and use them creatively when prompted?
Hopefully this course will help me find the missing link. If nothing else, the sheer brutal experience of being asked to come up with something in minutes then speak it to the whole group without chance to self edit or prevaricate or equivocate or any of those lovely words, and this week after week, should bludgeon my reluctant brain into something approaching obedience.
So then, what better place to start than homework?! Which, if you're reading this to see if you want to do the course, I should point out is optional and given in the kindest and most constructive terms possible, with a promise from Bead to give personal feedback which is actually the single most terrifying and yet desired outcome of this whole exercise. What does someone else, a professional storyteller, THINK of my writing?
The homework is to imagine a familiar setting, then have an unexpected character (for whom we have to get the name right, see earlier post) walk into the setting, notice three things, and react. Additionally, we need to write a paragraph or so in that person’s voice, first person, explaining what they want and what’s standing in their way.
Simple you may say. Endless possibilities!
That’s what I’m struggling with.
I may post the results, and Bead’s comments, here. Seems only fair.
Wish me luck.