Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Learning to dance...

No, of course the MA in Creative Writing is not about learning to dance. But I think getting used to each other on the course forum is a bit like that.

There is a lot of forum work involved. We each write three or four pieces of 500 words each per week, then have to comment on each others. As we're not quite used to each other yet, and it's very difficult to suggest tone on any Internet forum, there is a lot of dancing back and forth involved. We're all gauging, I think, how to give each other constructive criticism without causing offence. I seem to find myself apologising or explaining myself a lot, so obviously I need to work on that! I must admit it has led to a bit of a wobble, but I'm not about to give up. After all, we're all there to learn and improve and we can't do that just by saying everything is perfect. I should stress that everyone on the course is very nice and supportive. I think it's only me who worries about whether I've given offence or not. It does occur to me that maybe if I stopped apologising for my opinions, they might carry more weight...

The activities are fascinating though, and are making me look at my writing in a very different way. So far we've played with the idea of building characters, using their deepest secrets and appearance in order to suggest their personalities. This week we've done some work on point of view. We had to combine two characters, one from Andrea Levy's The Long Song, and another from Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. Levy's character talks in the first person, whereas Lahiri's story is told in the third person, about a taxi driver called Mr Kapasi. We had to put Levy's unnamed character into Mr Kapasi's taxi and write about her from his point of view. I must admit I struggled with this. I struggle with cultural appropriation full stop, and honestly feel there are people who do it much better than a middle aged white woman from the Peak District whose only three trips out of the country include Germany, Spain and Venice.

The next activity (which I'm actually avoiding by writing this blog post) is about consistency in point of view. We have to write about something we own or a place, first in objective terms, i.e. a white house in a field, then in subjective terms, i.e. ugly white house in a field. Then write in the first person about a character who disagrees with our opinion of the place/object, then change it to third person.

Even though I am only writing three or four pieces of 500 words per week, it is impacting on my other writing, mainly because of all the forum time. I imagine this will settle down eventually, but as we're marked on forum work, I don't expect that to happen anytime soon!

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