It’s that time of year again when I’m half way through a university course and I’m wishing it were over. There are differences though between pre-break and post-break modules and that’s lack of anxiety.
Before I took a break from studying I’d be a jibbering wreck at this point; obsession over scores, comparing myself with others especially anyone with a higher mark. I’d have convinced myself that I was an idiot to have even attempted to study.
Post-break I’m just simply bored. I went back into this with the sole purpose of completion. I have written (last week) that I would like to teach adult education and I do but I want to complete this degree and pass. After all once done it will have taken me 8 years! It’s a long time to be hitting the books.
There’s no anxiety though. Before I applied I accepted that my grades would be what ever they turn out to be. If it’s a low score I can be sad for a short while then move on. I stay away from forums and Facebook pages so I can’t compare and that in itself has made a massive difference. I no longer get annoyed at people asking questions that could be answered by simply logging onto their student account and having a look.
But yeah I’m bored. I picked the advanced creative writing course because I’d already read the PDF version of the course book and so could start some of the work early. Once I got the course materials I blasted through the assignments so I didn’t have the panic of completing them on time. They just need tweaking before submitting at the correct time. I may have organised myself into boredom because what do I do now?
The coursebook is quite bland. It’s designed to churn out identikit writers. There doesn’t feel like there’s any room for experimentation and I like to play. I like out-there ideas. But never mind it’ll soon be over.
I have a shorter level 1 course to fill in a credits gap then the big finish which will tax me. I should count my blessings that I have a ‘relaxing’ couple of years before the final year.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
– Henry Ford
“Try not to have a good time…this is supposed to be educational.”
― Charles M. Schulz
“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti
It’s assignment time again and this time I have to write a 1000 word critique of someone else’s piece of work. I’m fairly confident that this one will go ok as I’ve been reviewing in some form for the last 3 years.
I’m a member of netgalley where you can request to download books (some are out already, most are due out) for free in return for an honest review. I started this around 2014 and reviewed a small number of books before picking this up in earnest about 18 months ago. I love doing this. I think it’s made me a better writer within myself as looking at what I’m liking in people’s work and what I’m not looking informs how I write. I get a weird thrill when I see books that I read before release and reviewed showing up on a book shop shelf. It feels a bit like one of ‘mine’ especially when I gave it plenty of stars.
The other reviews I’m involved with are for unpublished books. With these I have a set criteria to look at and feedback to the publisher. Again though, this helps me. I have an idea for a story where based on the 6 months I’ve read these books and used the criteria questions I’ve already decided when I start writing it will have a different ending to the one originally imagined. It may even now have multiple points of view.
There is a lot of back and forth on twitter regarding reviewers and my friend specifically stays away from Goodreads. This isn’t because writers don’t like criticism but more that some people choose to attack. This is constructive, it’s personal and downright nasty but keyboard warriors are a topic for another time. I don’t understand the mindset though. There are plenty of books I’ve downloaded and not liked. There are one or two that I have been unable to finish but I would never attack an author because of this. I try my best to say why I didn’t like. For example I couldn’t finish a health book earlier this year simply because there was far too much science jargon within the book and I felt it was way above my level of understanding. So with that the author can either say tough and keep future work at the same level or they can look at their wording and see if there is anything that can be learnt from it.
Books are authors babies. They spend many many hours writing, editing and writing again. If you don’t like a book say why but without a personal attack. A good reviewer will do this.
This new piece of work for my latest assignment takes a lot of these elements. As well as critiquing the work you have to link back to how it informs your own writing. It’s an interesting experience and one that takes what I’m used to into another level again. I’ve found it easier to write so far. Let’s hope the grade reflects this.
I got my latest open university grade back yesterday with an increase of 20% (it’s marked out of 100 so a 20 mark jump). The funny thing is it’s the same story as used in the first assignment.
For the first assignment we had to write a short story then for the second one we had to adapt it to either a radio, film or stage script. I went with stage. It’s interesting trying to adapt your story and working out the best format. I’d originally had a woman sat on a bench talking. My tutor wanted more from the piece with a more defined ending so for the script I killed her off!
The bench became a waiting are before she went to heaven. But how do you make a monologue interesting. I’m a very visual person so I would find it difficult to sit and watch one person just chatting away on stage. To counter act that I had a Greek chorus of teenagers and lots of dancing! Sounds bonkers but I obviously wrote it well enough for the boost in marks.
I think though trying to write things in different styles is good for you as a burgeoning writer, trying different styles as you never know what will stick. What will be that moment when you find your style. I hated doing it at the time but in teh end it’s been worth it
I’ve been thinking a bit about volunteering lately as it’s something I want to do this year. It has to be for a cause that means something to you as otherwise you’ll just not stick with it.
When my son was small I volunteered as a Cubs and Scouts helper. I really enjoyed it and loved seeing the young people blossom. Once he grew out of it I tried with girl Guides and it didn’t have the same effect. The girls seemed less engaged and the leaders were very disorganised. One of my co-workers is a Brownie leader so I know that this was a one off but I left as soon as I could
I’ve been thinking about some environment based volunteering. Another work colleague has recently been involved in cleaning her local beach of plastic that has been littered by people. In the UK we have a TV show called Blue Planet and the recent series showed the harm that littering plastics can do to animals. As much as this interests me I’m in between the East & West Coast, don’t drive and all the volunteering options I could find were for tiny village beaches I’d struggle to get to.
So I think for that I’d have to look and see what my options are closer to home.
Some volunteering I have been successful with is the Suffrage Centenary celebrations. It’s a 100 years this year that (some) women were allowed to vote. As a result the various government departments are having a relay across the UK and Ireland to celebrate. There’s a flag that will travel this route. Leeds, where I live, is a Suffrage City one of the original few cities where The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) had a base. There are a bunch of us going to take part, organise events for a week in October and no doubt you will see the results in a blog closer to the time
I’ve always had a keen interest in politics and social policy building so this is something that i feel I really can get behind and support. I’m looking forward to what happens next
As part of my open university course the latest module I’m doing is a creative writing one. I’ve just spent a torturous few weeks turning a short story into a 15 minute play. Something I never want to do again. And now I’m trying to get ahead of myself in my downtime by writing a 2500 short story. One of the good things is I saved all the old writing activities from the previous writing course and I’ve found a couple of them I think I can adapt to make them longer and something interesting to submit.
I wrote in my Inspiration blog about how I planned to write just a little a day to get into good habits. I chose this module to do as an ‘easy’ one although no university course is actually an easy one. By that I meant I already had the course book and had done the final piece of work in it (a 4000 word story) a couple of years ago during my uni break while I was incredibly bored in a previous job. By ‘easy’ I mean that of the 7 assignments, three are built around this piece of work meaning I would have less to write.
I’ve flip flopped around whether I want to write and publish my own work so many times. If you dig deep into previous blog posts (around 2014-15) you’ll find lots of 200-300 word stories and some poems. I’m going to blame the anxiety again. It really makes you doubt your own worth. I did think for a long time that I wasn’t cut out to be a writer despite wanting to do it from being 14. The reasons for not writing again until 2010 are also buried within this blog somewhere so I won’t rehash. If you read regularly it’s not a secret. But how do you know you’re not cut out to be a writer if you don’t write?
How do I know that I won’t be capable of the 4 or 5 novel ideas I have unless I try to write them?
This is my 51st blog in a row. Since starting it I’ve written these 51 short musings plus a short story and a 15 minute play. In less than 2 months that’s quite a lot for someone who felt she couldn’t write.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that I feel motivated to write. Half an hour ago I sat down to write this having no idea what to write. Sometimes that happens and sometimes I have an idea a few days before. But what’s interesting is that even when I have no idea if I sit here and ‘just start typing’ the words come. Some blogs will be more interesting than others. You can’t always control that but for me, the words are there.
So if I do some more research on the books I want to write (and to be honest I don’t need to do much more than I already have) and sit down and just start with a bit of luck I can write that novel.
This challenge is probably one of the best habits I’ve developed and I’m so glad I gave it a shot
I’m reading a book at the minute called The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. In it a man collects objects that have been lost, labels them with exactly what they are, where and when they were found and then built a career writing short stories inspired by these items.
I love this idea. I don’t fancy filling my house with items I’ve found randomly in the street. I don;t have the space for it even if I did. However it did make me think of photographs. Going out and exploring, taking photos of things that catch the eye and then seeing what transpires from it.
It was once an exercise in an old creative writing course and I enjoyed it at the time but then as with many things you forget about them. This blog has enabled me to start writing again. At the minute it’s non fiction musings as part of the challenge but I’ve been taking inspiration from another writer – Ben Aaronovitch. He posts his daily word count on twitter and some days that number is only in the low hundreds. But…he writes every day and no matter how small the word count it will eventually add up to a full book.
So once this challenge is over I am going to continue with what is already a good habit of doing something every day no matter how small. It may be about my object photographs or I might finally get started on the novel I’ve said I’m going to write for the last 5 years.
I’m enjoying this. I had no real motivation behind starting this challenge besides enjoying the work of someone else who is doing it (more inspiration) but it’s reawakened a love I thought I’d long lost and I’m very glad to have found it again
What inspires you?