I’m mid-way through a creative writing course. On the surface it’s all about creating characters, getting to know what they know, and imagining situations in which they might have things happen to them.
In reality it’s about me paying money to give myself permission to skive off to the home office for several hours a week and, in the words of author Matt Nable, “make s@%t up.” And, may I say, it’s wonderful!
I’ve never been particularly interested in creative writing up to now. My study, my practice and my work has been grounded in reality. My go to sources of material have been facts and real events ever since I first fell in love with the feature articles in the Good Weekend as a teenager. I thought creative writing was for ‘other people’. I hated it in high school. I excelled at English essays, but flunked at tasks involving imagined situations.
As part of this course, I’m learning that writing and thinking creatively is just a skill to be taught and learnt like any other. I reckon there are two main reasons for my delight in this project.
One is the fact that I’m spending time immersed in an imaginary world. Here, characters are formed in front of my eyes by the neurons in my brain subconsciously firing signals down to my fingertips. It’s a pleasurable sensation, guilty as heck, and produces little of actual value to the world around me but it makes me feel good.
The second reason is terribly simple and obvious; the act of learning something new. These ideas of how to craft a story and how to flesh out a characters are concepts which had previously been hidden to me, but now they’re being presented to me by someone in the know.
In our internet-enabled world, I get tired trying to work my way through a topic about which I know nothing. Since I’ve got a world’s worth of knowledge at my fingertips, I think I should be able to figure it out, how this or that works, what this or that means. With no direction or guidance, I am a tennis ball bobbing in a pool, bumping into things, occasionally dipping under the surface, popping up again all of a sudden.
I haven’t studied seriously for about 9 years, and I would hardly call what I’m doing now serious study. But the beauty of having someone set a course of action before me, a course constructed to take me from nowhere to somewhere, cannot be understated. I could be learning how to brew beer, or how to speak Latin, I don’t think it matters. I’m following instructions, doing my homework, flexing my grey matter. It’s refreshing and enlightening, and I’m sure I’ll miss it when it’s over.
What have you learnt about lately that’s made you happy?