Sunday, 7 August 2016

Wobbling and all that...

As I said I'm going to be honest on this blog, it is only right that I share all my feelings about taking this MA in Creative Writing. I am not looking for validation here. I just want to be honest and share my feelings as they occur.

As soon as I had sorted out all the admin related to taking the course (Student Loans, OU Budget Accounts to tide me over till the student loan comes in etc) I was faced with the reality of actually being committed to doing it. Here I was, on an MA in Creative Writing. It has been my dream for so many years. I did once apply to go to Sheffield University for an MA in Creative Writing, but was turned down. I didn't know if the reason was because I write genre or because I simply wasn't good enough for them. There was no reason given so I still don't know.

So my fears are not without foundation. To add to my wobbles, when I attended OU Summer School many years ago, I took part in a poetry workshop. When the time came I proudly read out my work, only for the tutor to look at me and say, 'Oh. It rhymes,' before quickly moving on to the next person. Talk about bursting my bubble! I had no idea that rhyming poetry was an anathema in academic circles. I do know that I didn't write an awful lot of poetry after that and intend to actively avoid it on this course if I can.

I am a genre writer. It is how I've made my way through the writing world and I've loved doing it. Whilst I'm not a well-known author, I have carved out a nice little niche for myself writing pocket novels. What if this is not good enough for taking this MA in Creative Writing? What if the tutor does the equivalent of 'Oh, it rhymes,' every time I submit work to him/her? What if I come across fellow students who are sniffy about romance and other genre writing?

As part of the preparation for the course, I've been reading one of the earlier set texts for the OU writing courses. There are lots of exercises in there, including one about taking in your surroundings. It is illustrated by an extract from Virginia Woolf, about the ice she sees in garden. It's very poetic and deep, as befits one of the best writers of the early twentieth century.

So I do a little mental exercise of my own to see if I can equal it (ha!). And all I can see is my untidy living room, with a letter next to the phone from the council, some crockery in the display cabinets and another letter from the hospital. And I can't find anything poetic to say about any of it. All it does is remind me that we're still having trouble with that neighbour, that some of the mugs in the display cabinets were made by grandchildren we don't see anymore, and the letter from the hospital is about my husband's appointment at the cancer unit, where we'll undoubtedly spend another few hours worrying what they're going to tell us this time. And I know that the reason I don't want to write about any of this is because this is what I'm trying to escape when I write. I want to lose myself in convoluted plots involving impossibly handsome heroes and beautiful heroines chasing Nazi gold whilst falling hopelessly in love. Or a nice, dastardly murder mystery, with twists and turns aplenty.

Virginia Woolf might find poetry in the ice in her garden (perhaps because she didn't have to do her own housework!) but I can't find poetry in my messy living room. Only a wish to escape it, if only for a few hours. I suppose I could just tidy up...

So already I feel at a disadvantage because I can't produce what seems to be expected of me.

When I put these fears on Facebook, I was immediately reassured by friends who have taken MAs or are about to take this same course. They assure me that genre writing is not sniffed at, so that helps, though I still won't know for certain until I begin.

I think that in the end, even if I do meet 'sniffiness', I'm going to have to remain true to myself. If I try to write 'literary', it will look forced and probably not be very good. If I stick to what I enjoy writing, it may not be high art, but at least it will be me and surely that's worth something?


Kath McGurl said...

Lovely post.
But those letters from the council and the hospital - suppose you haven't yet opened them. Suppose they say something entirely different, that will change your life. What if in that display cabinet there's an item a grandchild bought for you at a school bric-a-brac stall, but it's actually a very old, and you take it along to Antiques Roadshow.... you know - you do this better than anyone!
I bet Virginia Woolf didn't even have ice in her garden when she wrote her piece...

Quillers said...

I never trusted that woman... ;-)

Joyce said...

I don't think I could be 100% certain about what is, or is not,'literary'. I don't believe all literary writing shuts its eyes to mundane matters - certainly not these days. Virginia Woolf was writing nearly a century ago, and fashions have changed.

Eleanor Roosevelt quotes: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

You're doing the first. Remember the second!


Sue Blackburn said...

All I know is I absolutely love your writing :-) xx