Workshops and writing practice

We’re back to a thorny issue. I’m putting together the workshop outline for ‘Grow and Tell’ in September. It includes a memoir exercise, a ‘taste and write’ based on home-made preserves, and a horticultural section on how to preserve, conserve, and otherwise hang on to, your edibles.

So what’s the issue? Daily writing. I do write every day – it’s my job. I don’t write fiction EVERY day, although most days I do, but I do write every day (except Sundays, as I am now learning to have a day off) and it works for me. What doesn’t work (for me) is the daily journaling or free writing process outlined in ‘The Artist’s Way’. I know it does work for many, but I think there’s a significant minority, like me, who discover that if they give their first writing of the day to morning pages, they end up with second-rate later work. On the other hand, the Artistic Date does work for me and is a profoundly important part of my creative practice. Every time I say this though, somebody in the room will huff and mutter as if I am dissing Ms Cameron. I am not. There are no rules. Really, there are no rules. THERE ARE NO RULES.

The Artist’s Way is a brilliant process for those for whom it works. For those for whom it does not work, it’s deeply frustrating to feel that you are the only person who doesn’t ‘get it’. In saying that I am simply stating the experience of one writer – and I just don’t understand why being non-representative in this area is so controversial. If I said I didn’t get heterosexual love (I do) or sushi (I don’t) or baseball (I don’t) or ballet (I do) nobody would be terribly upset. But as soon as I say that while many find morning pages a great creative spur, some, like me, don’t, this susurration of infamy begins somewhere in the room and spreads like a cold breeze.

Hmph. I shall still say it. And I just hope everybody thaws out when we get to the plum curd, blackberry butter and sloe and apple jelly ….


  1. Jim Murdoch
    27th August 2011

    Because there are people out there who still cling onto the belief that there is a right way to be a writer. I wish there was, I sincerely wish there was. I’m the kind of guy that would appeal to, a rule book that if I followed diligently I would become a decent (okay I’m thinking ‘great’) writer. In life, as I see it, one’s goal should be to discover what you’re good at and get better at it. If you’re lucky then that thing might just be taking your top off and appearing in a daily paper, if, like Samantha Fox, nature has been kind to you. And she was very good at talking her top off. It’s not exactly rocket science but there are a lot of women who, no matter how well-endowed they were, wouldn’t be able to do it. So all credit to her. It was never going to be a career for life though, was it? So, wisely (I use the term reservedly), she opted for a second career as a pop star but that wasn’t where her talent lay and, although I’m sure she made a few quid along the way so one couldn’t exactly call her a failure, she will not be remembered in 100 years time for anything other than her massive mammaries.

    I can write – you know I can write – but I’m never going to be the next Stephen King. (I believe Patrick Cunningham, Virginia Virtucon and Richard Godwin are all the next Stephen King and I’m sure there are others.) I also not going to be the next Samuel Beckett (Pinter gave it his best effort but I don’t see any other pretenders to the throne on the horizon.) What I can be is me, the best me that I can be. Paul McCartney played a right-handed bass left-handed and upside down. That’s wrong. I’m right-handed but I use my knife and fork as if I was left-handed. That’s wrong. But who cares?

    I’ve never read The Artist’s Way. I’m not sure if someone gave me a copy I would. Not now. Maybe when I was seventeen. And it might have helped. But I doubt it. What I’ve learned along the way is that there is no right way to be anything; you just have to do the best with what you have: Bach wrote of eight-hundred pieces of music in his life; poor ol’ Ruggles managed about a dozen. I’ve told Carrie many times if I never wrote another word I could live with myself.

    I like the idea of a day off though. Not had one of those in a long time.

  2. Jane Steen
    29th August 2011

    I journal but I don’t think it’s a necessary artistic practice. I do it mostly because I like to read my old journal entries!

    Do what works for you…plenty of great books have been written without Morning Pages.

  3. Louise Halvardsson
    1st September 2011

    you have the right to your own opinion :=) would be strange if something worked for absolutely everyone … the way the pages works for me is that they are a kind of “mind dump” I get rid of my nightly dreams and all other personal rubbish in my head, so it’s clear when I start writing fiction … nowadays I don’t even read the pages after I written them, pure mind-dump, works better for me than meditation …

  4. pinkyandnobrain
    4th September 2011

    Hi Kay,

    Hope all goes well for the workshop in September. I agree with you, I don’t think it should be controversial to say you disagree with a writing strategy/process. I am not quite sure why it should be so contentious, I suspect it might have something to do with a fundamental insecurity about what it is or means to be a writer.

    I am still struggling to come to terms with labelling myself as a writer, even though it really should be as simple as assuming the label because I write and wish to share my work. I would feel better about it if I had assurance that I belonged to some kind of writer’s guild or club, that there were other diagnostic attributes that ensure I’m not a fraud pretending to be a writer.

    Having said that, I can’t write anything worth writing unless I do it my way. So I am learning to make the rules myself and call myself a writer if I wish to. Sometimes I do (wish to), sometimes I don’t.

    I am sure the fruit curd and jelly will straighten things out, anyway. How anyone could hold a grudge against you for anything once having tried your preserves is beyond me 🙂


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