Saturday, 28 January 2017

WHY CREATIVE WRITING?






Picture it.


An eighteen year old college student, stood in the middle of a crowded college cafeteria, the faint smell of stale coffee in the air and a fastened envelope in her hands. Two years of hard study, break downs and examinations all rolled in to one small sheet of A4 paper. I had drilled my assumed failure into my Mum for three weeks prior to collecting the results so neither of us had much hope nor desire to see the text upon the paper. As my finger rather clumsily ripped open the document of dread, my mouth fell open. PASSED. Everything. Every subject, every exam, all of it. I remember the feeling of jubilation, the pride and happiness in that single moment and I remember my Mum crying in front of every other student who attended said college. (It was a bit of a High School Musical moment.)



That was three years ago. Three. It sounds such a cliché but I have no idea where the time has run away to. Now I am twenty one and currently in my final semester of my university life. Three years of bad decision making, numerous cups of coffee, long nights, excessive drinking and really good laughs. I'd like to say that university defined me and changed me into a mature and courageous woman but that would be a total lie. It has made me aware, confident, and passionate but I still have those small moments where I crawl into bed, throw the duvet over my head and watch crappy films on repeat all day long. I really do have those days.



I have always been a writer and a reader. I remember my Dad reading Roald Dahl books to me, especially James and the Giant Peach. He would spend hours continuously reading and impersonating the characters for my amusement. (He must have hated it.) I could often be found with my head in a book, particularly the adventures of Olga Da Polga, a guinea pig who wanted to break free of the restraints of her own kind and make her way in the world (I probably didn't interpret that at nine years old.) Swept away into magical lands, I would spent hours writing poems and songs and stories. Then my parents would have to read them all; I don't think my passion was shared. Through school I developed my narrative voice, grew in my own style and learnt more about what it is I like to write down. Poetry has become the forefront of my creative career, almost to the point that it has become second nature.



When I first started University, family and friends would enquire what I was studying. I would reply Creative Writing. The normal reply is to say 'is that writing stories and stuff' and to some extent it is, but it is so much more than that. Creative Writing is productive, imaginative, fulfilling. It has this quality to it that sweeps you away and allows your voice to travel through different genres. It's informative and entertaining. It's critical and creative. It's difficult but enjoyable. It's certainly undermined by the core English degrees; Creative Writing is seen as an 'easy' option. After three years of studying, I can honestly say it isn't easy.



It isn't easy because to write, to produce, one has to let go of everything. I had to confront demons, I had to think deeper than I have ever thought, I had to be inventive and authentic within an industry that is predominantly recycled generic shit. (Fifty Shades, I'm looking you dead in the eye.) What is wonderful about the course is your constantly working with tutors and peers who all share the same passion as you and are driven by that passion. Some of the writers I have encountered over the three years have defined me. Plath, Stein, Carver, writers who are inventive and new and different. A little bit of different is a good thing, a great thing.



But why did I chose university? Why did I chose creative writing?



It's something I have asked myself a lot recently. Coming to the end of a degree and not having a clear view of what it is you want to do is quite honestly terrifying. One minute I want to teach, the next I want to write novels and creative universes, the next I have written three scripts and want them to be put onto screen. Then it all comes crashing down. How are you going to achieve that? Big breaks only happen to special people. For every published writer or screenwriter there are thousands upon thousands of other authors who are earning nothing to do the thing they love. That then sends me on the continuous spiral of self-doubt and berating my work as it isn't as good as other peoples. Then I remind myself that writing is subjective and that people like different voices.



I decided upon going to university because I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I entered university not at my best self. I was self-conscious, introvert, depressed, lonely. I moved to Sheffield in order to be nearer to university and live in halls with new and brilliant people and soon found that it was the single worst mistake I have ever made. I missed my family, my boyfriend, my dog. I soon became encased in the four walls of my mind and found it difficult to do anything. I didn't show up, I squandered my first year and subsequently the second. Home life was tricky and breaking down, leading me to become ever more closed away.



Third year, although I am only one semester in, has been my turn around. Finding my voice, finding myself and connecting with the person I want to be. I have learnt so much about literature, language, and people. My writing is concise, meaningful and at times enriched with emotion. (Other times its rubbish and I scrunch the paper into a ball and throw it at my bedroom wall.)



So with hindsight going to university was for the journey. For the change and the new beginnings. It was to connect with different people and experience different situations and emotions. It was about making mistakes and learning wholeheartedly from them. I don't think I am Charles Dickens but the writing isn't too bad. Yet, what I tell everyone who asks me about university is decide what you want. Don't just go. To go to university you have to want it, breathe it. Especially an art course. It's enriching, uplifting and so interesting but it's hard work and nights spent worrying over a piece of coursework.



So why creative writing?



Creative Writing is a mixture of both English Literature and English Language focused more on the craft of the work than extracting information from existing works. It's about moving forward into a creative career as a writer rather than analysing long blocks of text. (It does include some of that though.) It covers every form of writing from poetry to journalism, scriptwriting to novels. As someone who spent hours under her bed writing stories and creating faraway lands the course was designed for me. I have loved every minute of creating. The good stuff, the bad stuff, the terribly written stuff (the script where I wrote about a zombie apocalypse that was just full of swearing and violence.) Yet all of it was created. Every poem about love, death, and anger it all came from the hours of sitting and writing. You find the small pieces of beauty in everyday things.



Travelling up to Sheffield, staring out of the window you lose yourself among the small villages you pass by, the blur of the track under the roar of the train, the stretching fields of the peak district, and the remains of industry among the Yorkshire landscape. Every single piece of the painting of the world holds inspiration. That's what you learn on this course. To look everywhere, within everything. Sometimes I see something that is supposedly 'art' and think 'that is shit.' Then I remember that it meant something to the creator. It meant a great deal and it stood for something. The way it was produced holds significance to the person who produced it. The same can be said for writing. Every piece of writing is creative. A funny billboard, a snarky text message, even Fifty Shades (reluctantly.)



We need writers. We need inspiration. We need creativity. In a world that has become almost too generic it’s important to have art. Stories, paintings, broadcasts, dance, music. These fundamental things are valuable to each and every person. My brother Joey is autistic and he struggles with it. His escape is the piano and when he plays it is one of the most beautiful sounds you'll hear and all of his emotion and thoughts are conveyed when he plays.


For me, when I sit down and think in silence before writing everything haunts me. The good memories, the bad moments, the times I have cried or felt helpless. I remember the moments of pure love and happiness. All of that is then accumulated onto a blank white sheet of paper. That's how important writing is.



I look back emotionally over the three years I have spent among my fellow writers and examine my portfolio. I see mistakes, I see honesty, I see sadness, I see joy and fear. The main thing I see there is growth. The change in my writing, the movement of the words, the profound difference in quality. University was so valuable to me. It gave me the experience and the time I needed to perfect my work. I will get my work published and it probably won’t do very well but I will know that it mattered to me and it meant something. It's been an amazing three years and the final four months are going to be so important and so difficult. I am so ready for the challenges.



That's why creative writing.
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