It’s been almost eight weeks since I started Tim Clare’s writing boot camp. I was attracted by the course’s plain description: no complicated exercises, no need to physically remove myself from my daily life and upset my boss to go on some expensive writing retreat, none of the usual asshattery that often taints creative writing courses. It sounded right up my street.
It’s not like I didn’t do any writing before I started or that my writing was shit. Perhaps it was, but I’ll leave that for others to decide. In the months leading up to me starting the course I’d finished articles, guest blogs and even an academic book, making at least one dream come true. But with so much energy consumed by academic and other non-fiction writing, there was very little left for short stories and, dare I say it, a novel.
Without wanting to sound overtly modest, I don’t think I’ll ever be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ve always loved writing fiction, ever since I first figured out how to hold a pen, and I was keen to reignite the fire. Committing to eight weeks of writing just ten minutes a day, I hoped, would kick start my neglected hobby and make it an active and valued part of my life again.
Spoiler alert: it did the trick. Before I started my recent half-hearted attempts at fiction felt bad. That’s because they were bad. As Tim explains halfway through the course, you can’t neglect your training and expect that you can still run that marathon. So I resigned to following his instructions and just doing whatever that day’s exercise involved.
I won’t say too much about the content of the course, because I really enjoyed the surprise element of it. Sitting down at the end of a busy day – I’m an evening writer when it comes to fiction – and thinking: okay, what are we doing? what’s going to happen? was one of the things that made the course so much fun to be involved with. It forced me to think on my feet, to be really creative, and to push my boundaries.
Of course some, or much, of the writing I did was a bit shit. Experimentation is bound to go wrong sometimes. Who cares? I still had fun. This was not supposed to be a career change, proof of how epic an artist I was, it was just me arsing around with a pen and a notebook. Mission accomplished. And I have to admit I was quite pleased with some bits. In any case I now have a lot of raw material to work with, should I ever experience writer’s block again.
The last part of the course directs the participant – i.e. me – towards working on a novel. I quite like this touch, as it stops one from falling into the black hole of “what’s next”. With my creative muscles properly warmed up, I even came up with an idea I might end up developing into a novel. I’ve written some scenes this week, I have several sessions to go, and who knows, I might actually finish this project. So far, I like it. And with Nanowrimo coming up, why not devote another month (or two) to writing?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that writing doesn’t have to be perfect or impressive, at least not when it’s a first draft. It’s okay to write badly and just have fun doing it. It’s okay to just try things for the hell of it. Published or not, I feel like I can call myself a bona fide writer again. If only for that reason, I’d recommend this course – or a similar project – to anyone who has ever experienced writer’s block.
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