Writing isn’t always a choice for me. It’s a need that develops in stressful or otherwise memorable situations; first sentences start to compose themselves in my head, essay plans and outlines taking shape. More mundanely, I write day in, day out at work; conjuring whole paragraphs by typing encoded macros, bashing out countless sorries and thank yous as I go.
Earlier this year, I decided to do something to put myself in control of my creativity. I bought a place on the Write Like A Grrrl writing course – a women-only, six-week long class put on by feminist charity organisation, For Books’ Sake. For two hours every Saturday morning, I would share a creative space with a small group of women, learning about how we can all start writing, keep going and do it well.
With the first class being today, I emerged from King’s Cross tube station into the cold sunlight, and headed up Pentonville Road, stopping for a coffee and croissant on the way. As the streets grew ever more desolate, I arrived at York House, signed in at the reception, and took the lift up to Tent. I was greeted by Kerry, the writer leading the course, and welcomed into a darkly lit, open plan space, populated with mismatched furniture and other curious and charming knick knacks. For a donation, you can come and work in Tent – if you live in or near North London, I would thoroughly recommend doing so.
Once all the grrrls had arrived, we got to discussing the barriers we set ourselves when we write. Breaking off into groups of 3, we listed our biggest roadblocks – lack of time and energy alongside full time jobs, no proper space in which to write, lack of confidence in our ideas, general self-doubt. How reassuring and affirming it was as we regrouped, to realise how many of the same concerns unite us. As the common themes were ticked off, we nodded and laughed knowingly.
Kerry referred to the teachings of Robert Boice, who advocates a brief daily writing practice – no more than 15 minutes a day. In writing this piece alone, I’ve already disobeyed that limit. In truth, I don’t expect it to be easy to stick to such a short allotment of time; when I get going, I can write for hours on end. Often, I spend whole days working on essays and blog posts. Imposing a 15 minute time frame on myself seems pretty much impossible.
But I am more than willing to give it a shot. I am ready to try something new, such was the essence of today’s inaugural class. I am ready to incorporate writing into my life in a natural, healthy way. I am ready to avoid the delusions of genius and grandeur (those cringeworthy writer cliches) that late-night bingeing sessions induce. I am ready to make writing a priority, but not at the expense of my health and lifestyle.
We began the class by writing a short paragraph on where we see ourselves in 20 years’ time, in an ideal world. Though we didn’t read any outloud, we all fed back that our visions had been grandiose, utopic and, on the whole, probably not very realistic. But what is the pursuit of a career in creativity if it is not hoping against all odds to succeed?
And so, I round this post off with my vision:
I’m sat at a large kitchen table, at home, remnants of a late breakfast all around. Before I can start my work for the day I’ll need to decide which project to begin with; which most needs my attention. The newspaper column, perhaps? Maybe the latest update of my author’s blog? What about that pesky third chapter I so desperately need to revise?
The good thing is that I have choice.