One of the outcomes of our 4-Week ‘Unlocking Creativity’ Writing Course is to help participants understand and recognise whether writing fiction is something they want to pursue and make part of their life. If writing is your thing, you will find the act of writing an extremely satisfying experience.
To enjoy the process of writing and to write the best story you are capable of producing, you need to realise that writing fiction is an art and a craft that takes time to master. If you do want to publish a novel or write a professional screenplay, you need to dedicate time to learning the craft and doing the work. The same applies to any creative endeavour.
One of the things we believe at the Writers’ Studio is that the act of writing nourishes the spirit of the writer and the reader. It adds another dimension to your life and is, for many people, the most compelling reason why one should pursue writing and make it part of your life. It is a mood altering activity that has the power to uplift your spirit on a daily basis.
We always refer to this insightful quote by Joyce Carole Oates in Week Two of our 4-Week Unlocking Creativity Writing Course:
“One must be pitiless about this matter of mood. In a sense writing will create the mood. Generally I’ve found this to be true. I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes… and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
We notice this phenomena all the time in our writing courses. After a group of writers have written in class you can feel the energy in the room change. When writers tap into their power of their imagination, they are accessing something that is far bigger than their rational mind and there is a feeling of calm stillness and contentment shared by everyone in the group.
Jennifer Egan, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, puts it beautifully. She says:
“When I’m writing, especially if it’s going well, I’m living in two different dimensions: this life I’m living now, which I enjoy very much, and this completely other world I’m inhabiting that no one else knows about.
“When I’m writing fiction I forget who I am and what I come from. I slip into utter absorption mode. I love the sense that I’ve become so engaged with the other side, I’ve slightly lost my bearings here. If I’m going from the writing mind-set to picking my kids up from school, I often feel a very short but acute kind of depression, as if I have the bends. Once I’m with them it totally disappears, and I feel happy again. Sometimes I forget I have children, which is very strange. I feel guilty about it, as if my inattention will cause something to happen to them, even when I’m not responsible for them…
“When the writing’s going well – I’m trying not to sound clichéd – I feel fuelled by a hidden source. During those times it doesn’t matter if things are going wrong in my life; I have this alternate energy source that’s active. When the writing’s going poorly, it’s as bad or worse than not writing at all. There’s a leak or a drain, and energy is pouring out of it. Even when the rest of my life is fine, I feel like something’s really bad. I have very little tolerance for anything going wrong, and I take little joy from the good things. It was worse before I had kids. I appreciate that they make me forget what’s going on professionally.”
Another issue she writes eloquently about, are the pitfalls of success and the dangers of buying into it. Again in Week Two of Unlocking Creativity, we refer to a speech given to the Australian Film & Television School by the 9 time Academy Award nominated Australian film director, Peter Weir. He said the secret to writing was to care and not care.
You must care enough to do the work and learn the craft, but when you are writing, you need to not care and be in the moment and trust where your imagination and writing will lead you. This leads you to discover hidden gems that can only be found by accessing the hidden mysteries of your unconscious.
Jennifer Egan says something similar:
“The attention and approval I’ve been getting for Goon Squad — the very public moments of winning the Pulitzer and the other prizes — is exactly the opposite of the very private pleasure of writing. And it’s dangerous. Thinking that I’ll get this kind of love again, that getting it should be my goal, would lead me to creative decisions that would undermine me and my work. I’ve never sought that approval, which is all the more reason that I don’t want to start now. If I start craving approval, trying to replicate what I did with Goon Squad, it’s never going to lead to anything good. I know that.”
She has three pieces of advice for aspiring writers:
- Read at the level at which you want to write. Reading is the nourishment that feeds the kind of writing you want to do. If what you really love to read is “y”, it might be hard for you to write “x.”
- Exercising is a good analogy for writing. If you’re not used to exercising you want to avoid it forever. If you’re used to it, it feels uncomfortable and strange not to. No matter where you are in your writing career, the same is true for writing. Even fifteen minutes a day will keep you in the habit.
- You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.
And a final message we also give our writers delivered by playwright Romulus Linney:
“You must simply love to write. Then, when there’s interest in one of your stories, it’s a bonus. There’s a lot of giving yourself up to it than being so much in command of anything. It’s like giving yourself up to something that’s going to take you along with it. And that you’re going to go wherever it goes. It may work out, it may not, but you’re going to go there.”
Note, our 4-Week Unlocking Creativity Writing Course is designed to introduce you to tools and techniques that enable you to access the power of your imagination and to demonstrate the powerful positive effects writing has on your mind, body and spirit. You can do the course Live-In Studio at Bronte or online.