Sunday, 22 May 2016

Drowning, Not Waving!



You know that thing you tell yourself you are going to do when coming up to an important milestone in your life? Yes you do! The one that goes..........'now I am 40 I am going to do things that scare me.' Just me then? Ok.........moving swiftly on...........When I was 40 (6  years ago........but shhhhhhhhhh) I made a vow that I would do things that made me want to pass out with fright or balk at the idea. And, I've done a few from abseiling to taking up running to being on a radio show to attending book events to writing! The list does go on and I won't bore you! Well, this week I crossed another thing off my 'to do' list...............I attended a creative writing class! No big deal I hear some of you shout but for me it was a very big deal!

At the heart of it, I am not a very confident person despite the numerous photographs of me dancing on tables or doing the splits at parties (yes wine does have a lot to answer for!) The thing I am least confident at doing is sharing my writing. The thought of actually finishing this book and sending it to people to read makes me want to hyperventilate to the point of passing out and waking up in a pool of my own sweat! Not very pleasing imagery but there you go! I'm assuming anyone who has written books feels exactly the same way? For the love of all thing chocolately tell me its not just me!!!

Anyway, back to the story of my creative writing class. I had applied for a place on the class a few months ago to be told that all the spaces were filled. It was in the local library and was a free class so I had summoned up the courage to go apply and you can imagine how I felt to be told there was no room for me! So, I walked away, head down and defeated. I whined to my husband that I couldn't get onto the class and then told him my life was pants! He suggested that I go back and leave my phone number just in case anyone dropped out or another class was organised. Why hadn't I thought of that? Was I really secretly relieved that I wasn't going to have to do something scary?  Despite fear, I did go back and leave my number and basically forgot about the entire thing until I received a phone call last week asking me if I'd like to attend one of the classes as someone had dropped out. The lovely lady on the phone explained that she wasn't sure whether the person who had dropped out was coming back but offered me the chance to see what the classes are about so that when the next lot are organised I can attend. Well, I had nothing to lose had I? Well, ok ..........lets not think about that.

So, on Thursday evening off I went to the library armed with my trusty notebook and pens. I felt like a child on her first day at school. The class was taken by a local writer who was lovely. However, it was obvious that everyone else in the class knew each other..............of course they did! They'd been attending from the beginning. Oh boy did I feel out of my depth here. What if I made an arse of myself? It wouldn't be the first time.

The class began with a lovely gentleman reading out a sonnet he had written based on 'homework' given to the class. Oh holy smokes the sonnet was amazing! I definitely did not have that kind of writing skill! Why oh why had I sat at the front of the class, directly in front of the tutor. Why hadn't I sat somewhere that would make it easy to escape! So, I had no choice to stick it out. 

We were presented with a picture of a picnic scene which turned out to be from an old movie.  We were asked to pick out one of the characters and write about what they were thinking. What was their story? And, we had to write it in the first person. Now, I know enough to know what writing in the first person is. Well I did until I was asked to do it. Suddenly I got stage fright and my mind went completely blank. I can laugh about it now of course because its such a simple thing but there I was put on the spot and expected to write something! And I couldn't remember how to! My hand was literally shaking when I picked up my pen. I looked at my classmates who were all scribbling away furiously! Fight or flight kicked in and as I was unable to run away I decided to fight. I took a deep breath, wiped away the sweat from my eyes, cleaned my glasses and I wrote! To be fair, what I wrote wasn't great in the allocated 15 minute slot but I wrote nonetheless.  At the end of that excercise we were asked to turn to the person next to us and either read out what we had written so they could critique or explain what we thought our characters story was. Well hells bells I wasn't going to read anything out so I turned to the lovely lady beside me and explained what I thought the character I had picked was all about! I think I did ok and we had an interesting chat about perceptions of scenes and people. Great I thought! I can do this!

Our next exercise was to write a character bio for another person from the picture. I found this immensely interesting as I had done this for my NaNoWriMo project, although I learned a lot more about this process during the class and I will definitely go back to my book and look again at the bios I have written and expand on them more. It might help me to make them more interesting and add a bit more substance to their personalities.  When we had completed this exercise, each of us had to talk about the character we had chosen and talk about them like they was a person we were introducing or talking about to a friend. When my turn came I actually thought I was going to fall off my chair in a dead faint. But, after a few gasps for air I finally was able to read out what I had written for my character and he turned out to be pretty damn interesting! The tutor was impressed I think and my character, a Mr Frankie Conway who was an Irish - American gambler and womaniser jumped right off my page and has been filed away for future use! Thank you very much Mr Conway!

And so, there you have it! I am waiting to hear if there is a place for me at the next class. If not, the class is going to be evolving into a writers support group too so hopefully I will be involved in that. While the thought of attending another class does still scare the bejesus clean out of me I was glad that I did it. And, in some weird way, I want to do it again! I want to learn how to make my writing better. I want to know what I am doing wrong and to have the skills to fix it. I want to find the courage to put more of my writing out there and cross another goal off my bucket list. Watch this space!