My main reason for applying to the course was to put up or shut up about being a writer. I was in that most hated of states where you are moving neither forward or backward. I had spent years sitting on various fences straddling who I used to be, who I think I am now and introducing a third co-ordinate, who I want to be. The first year of the course is now over aside from a few projects and my own writing and the second year stands temptingly before me on the other side of a Scottish summer. My biggest obstacles have been confidence and output. I thought having been accepted on the course I would instantly start writing more. Instead I have not only written less but I have read less! Overwhelming is not what I am trying to describe but the course has forced me not just into academia, a place I haven’t frequented for a long time but into the world of literature and the life of a writer. I realise that from day one, the course has taken me seriously as a writer but I have not.
Yesterday this was reinforced with a voice training and public performance workshop. (You know when I read back that sentence I realised I had omitted the critical ‘L’). In the morning we were treated to the gentle administrations of Ishbel McFarlane from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama who taught us warm up exercises and shared her knowledge about public speaking and in particular book reading in public. Our second guest was the author Jason Donald who read from his book and then spoke to us about his experience of book reading as the author. This reminded me how much I enjoy ‘story-telling’, the oral act of someone telling you a story rather than reading it yourself. However this only works if the story-teller has some skill, some passion and some common sense. It was gratifying to find Jason had all three.
The discussion moved to journalists and audience members asking you awkward, hostile or unclear questions and how you would deal with them. Jason turned to me to ask some examples of these questions and thrown by having to be involved in a class discussion unprepared, I was further perplexed by my reaction to being asked ‘what are you writing at the minute,’ and ‘how old are you’. Even ‘where are you from’ was making me angry. I would never dream of asking an author such questions and for myself, I do not like sharing information until I am comfortable with the sharee. Sam then came out with one of her one-liners, nail on the head comments that if we were lucky enough to be in the situation where a journalist or audience member was asking us a question about ourselves then we ought to be grateful and ready with an answer better than ‘I’d rather not say’.
That was when I realised this workshop was preparing us to read from our own published work. That was huge for me and again made me think about what I was doing on the course and where I want to be this time next year when I will be working on my final project. Once again the course is taking me seriously as a writer but I am not. As Mr. Bishop would say – Onwards!