I love writing. I have a love affair with language and with words. And what better way to nurture this interest than to take a course in creative writing offered by FutureLearn! Incidentally, the free education model is amazing; my latest addiction. I’ve already signed up to two other courses and Start Writing Fiction isn’t even over yet! A few snippets of wisdom I’ve gained from the course over the past six or so weeks:
1. Constraints are good for creativity. Everyone already knows this but it can be a difficult nugget to remember with client work, when the main constraint is mostly time. Here’s an example we were given: Write a short piece that contains 1 fact and 3 fictitious elements, and then flip it on its head.
1 fact, three fictitious She liked the simplicity of travelling on foot, hitchhiking at her wildest, unencumbered by other people’s schedules or deadlines. She was on her latest fitness binge and I was tagging along. She had already snapped up my bus card that morning and chopped it up. “We’re walking baby,” she cried out, “We’re walking from here to moon.” 1 fictitious, 3 facts She hated travelling everywhere on foot, her shoes (the third pair since January) were breaking apart at the soles (“over pronation” they called it) carrying those massive grocery bags up and down the hills. She was over it, she was done.
2. Notebooks are your best friend . That old adage has never been truer: you never know when inspiration might strike. An neat little observation exercise from Writing for Fiction made us re-examine our surroundings and the people in them:
They’re always at the bus stop before I am. Her: the slightly taller, immaculate with straight brown hair, red lips and square frames – the kind that are in fashion these days. And him: her counterpart – in a crisp clean suit and equally good looking. I wonder if it bothers him that he is an inch or so shorter. I look down. But of course, she is in heels. They always get off at the same stop, never touching. Are they dating or just work colleagues? I wonder. Or maybe even both? Scandal – we writers would like that. I create the narrative in my mind, in between my morning glimpses and notebook scribbles (though some details are decidedly blurred), a story of how they met by the water cooler, or that quaint coffee place down by the financial/consulting/accounting firm where they both work and got to talking about how they live in apartments a street apart, and that bus stop across the road. A cheeky smile might ensure: ‘I’ll see you there in the morning’.
3. “Be ruthlessly self-critical and scrupulously honest”. Week 3 and they were already advocating murder. All writers know they have to ‘kill their darlings’ at some point, but it was a good lesson for nonetheless.
4. Peer reviews work wonders. I can’t remember the last time I had such appreciative genuine feedback from my (faceless) peers. I liked that I could scroll through the posts, leave my thoughts and engage in an intellectual discussion. Peer reviews not only in give you a feel of your contemporaries but a handle on the pulse of the writing community.
If you haven’t tried the open source education model yet, honestly, try it! It’s a great way to up-skill, follow an interest on the side and have fun while doing it.