I go round in ever-decreasing, but seemingly never-ending, circles about whether or not to blog and so the weeks go by, with nary a word written. At least not on the blog. Many words written elsewhere, just not on here. So I go back to basics, although not in that John Major way. Heaven forfend; we all know how that particular campaign foundered. No, it is in more or a 'what did I say about this blog when I set it up?' way. And when I do that, I realise that I hardly ever write about the topics that I touched on when I started. Which is fine until I reflect that these days I blog about hardly anything. And there's the rub. I'm no longer sure what I want the blog to be, if anything.
I know that I'm not alone; many of my favourite bloggers write now only occasionally; others have ceased blogging. And then there's the time factor: being a conscientious blogger and blog reader eats into the hours; every day I try to spend less time in front of a computer screen and every day I seem to fail.
Still, after almost eight years of blogging, something has to give, or shift or change. Quite how this should be done, I am unsure . . . I never wanted the blog to become simply an account of 'what I did today' (or 'what I did on my holidays', so please ignore previous post); I never wanted it to become a paean to consumerism ('just look at all my stuff') - unlikely given my post-60 straitened circumstances, nor did I want it to become a one-topic blog - equally unlikely given my butterfly mind.
And then I reflected, whenever my writing students get stuck, I tell them to write anything, anything at all, just keep writing, even if it appears to be nonsense. Keep that pen moving. So I thought I might write a word or two about about the courses and workshops I offer, as well as the individual mentoring sessions, because I absolutely love planning and running these. And my delightful students seem to love them too.
Way, way back in the 1970s, I trained as a teacher but spent far too much time working on things like the college magazine and, in the end, I opted for a career in which I wrote, rather than taught, for a living. Neverthless, I have always believed that no education is ever wasted and, decades later, I can still remember how to construct a lesson plan. This has proved to be rather helpful in the past two years, since I embarked on my brand new post-retirement career.
In case you are wondering, the courses and sessions I run bear very little resemblance to formal creative writing programmes. None of that 'this term we are going to focus on the novel form'. No, we focus instead on firing the creative spark and this means that my writers never quite know what they are going to be working with from week to week. I use all manner of things such as paintings, photographs and music, as well as poems and extracts from a wide variety of books as a starting point. There is intense concentration as pens fly across notebooks but there is also much shared laughter and plenty of lively feedback and discussion.
And that is more or less how I work with the students I mentor online, via Skype. It still amazes me that this technology enables me to work in real time with aspiring writers not just here in the UK but around the world. It also enables people who live nowhere near a writing class or group, or who don't have transport, or who are unable to get out for one reason or another, to explore their creativity through writing. When I started mentoring, this was the group of people I most wanted to reach. I still do.
So, much of my time now goes into background reading and research for session plans and to reading and giving detailed feedback on individual pieces of work, as some of my students like to use all or part of their sessions to discuss writing that they have sent me earlier.
My satisfaction, as a teacher, comes from watching each of my students as they grow in confidence and develop their own, distinct, writer's voice. This summer one of my groups was invited to stage a platform performance of some of their work at the café-bistro where we meet weekly (in a private room that has become something of a writing sanctuary for them). They rose to the challenge and read superbly to a packed house; I went straight into proud mother hen mode.
Meanwhile, some of my students are now confidently writing blogs or submitting their stories to literary competitions. Others are using their newly polished skills to write memoirs or family histories for their children and grandchildren, or poems. They've all got the writing bug.
So, if you are interested in discovering your inner writer, wherever you are in the world, just let me know. We can always make adjustments for time differences . . .
And if you live in or near Mid Devon and are frustrated by the lack of local creative writing classes or groups, let me know and I'll see what I can do. We need only five people to get a class up and running. Just email me via the link in the right-hand sidebar and we'll take it from there.
All you need is a pen or pencil and a notebook. And the urge to write.