The thing about writing is that you do it on your own. There are some novelist collaborators, Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) for example and, more commonly, there are journalists who have teamed up and formed formidable partnerships like Woodward and Bernstein (Watergate). But on the whole writers are, by necessity, a solitary lot. Currently I am not entirely alone, my graduate son is at home and I am watching him nervously from the studio window, he is wielding an axe to fashion a saw-bench out of a tree that he felled in the overcrowded meadow last week; it needs chopping up to season as firewood. So although I am not entirely alone I do not have company with whom I can discuss aspects of my writing. My son reads extensively, but not work penned (or should that be tapped out?) by his mother.
Now if I worked for a large company corporation that invests in its staff, then from time to time I might be offered some form of professional development; a course perhaps, some mentoring an opportunity to garner more skills. As I don’t work for any such organisation I decided to invest in some professional development of my own. People assume that for a published writer versed in the theory and craft of writing there would be little to gain from a one day workshop. But they would be quite wrong. I have taken several one day workshops at the Writer’s Centre Norwich and elsewhere, and recently I attended a master-class led by the writer and academic Patricia Dunker.
Patricia Dunker is an entertaining, lively and generous tutor, she is also a writer utterly in command of her subject and ready to impart, in an easily digestible format, her extensive knowledge of the short story and the craft of writing. This day workshop proved to be just the fillip I needed. Exhausted from two house moves in four and a half months, followed by a distracting stream of tradesmen through the cottage, I had lost my writing mojo. Patricia Dunker called in samples of our writing and provided an afternoon of feedback and a full page of comments on the work the participants had submitted. This proved invaluable and given she is a busy writer and academic, I felt that this was exceptionally generous. I garnered tips on ‘voice’ and how to order a collection and I came away renewed, invigorated, and with energy to take on the two important writing tasks that I have been avoiding – re-drafting the opening of my manuscript and putting together my short fiction collection.
Putting your creativity at the heart of your life is vital, but so too is creative refreshment, whatever stage a writer has reached there is always more to learn, from reading, from doing, from other writers and from a master-class or writing workshop.