The past week, since finishing Week 2, I’ve been giving the technique of “morning pages” a go – essentially, getting your notebook first thing in the morning, and writing about anything that springs to mind. It’s certainly been an interesting experience; after all, your mind is in quite a different state when you first wake up. Looking back over what I’ve written so far, I’m not sure it’s helped my creativity (though there are some new ideas here and there), but it has helped organise my thoughts and get a better grip on everything buzzing in my brain.
As part of this writing course, I’m supposed to be noting down interesting things around me, which I tried to put into practice this weekend while on the long train journey to London Euston. Every time I noticed something new out the window, I made a brief note. The result was an odd stream that starts out basic – “pylons, fields with tractor tracks, rabbits, wood pigeons” – then I start getting more into it – “train racing the cars, light clouds in front of dark wall, brief rush of opposite-travelling train”. I might try and build a poem out of it at some point.
So, this week, the focus began with editing, as we were given an exercise on cutting down a particularly convoluted paragraph. It was fairly simple – but then we were given the “suggested” edit, and I didn’t really agree with it. It reduced the scene to the absolute bare bones, while taking out all of the interesting imagery – yes, you want to be concise, but surely a story needs a bit of flesh? While taking out unnecessary details, this edit also felt it necessary to mention that the character’s gun was loaded; surely when you see a gun, you assume it’s loaded unless told otherwise?
Anyway, the main exercise was to write a new little story – and based on a dream that I once had and wrote in my notebook, I came up with this:
Gordon knew that something was very wrong when he felt something cold and solid pressing into his beer belly.
He opened his eyes – or had they already been open? He was sure that he had been dreaming – his mind was buzzing, not feeling very rested – but darned if he could remember what it was about. Probably Karen; she came wandering into most of his dreams lately, even if she wasn’t sleeping next to him anymore.
His eyes hadn’t woken up yet; through the unfocussed haze, he could tell that it was light (how long had he been asleep?) but not the identity of whatever was being shoved into his abdomen. Had something fallen over on him? Was it an intruder with a truncheon? He and Karen might have parted on bad terms, but surely she wouldn’t go that far.
One by one, his senses came online, feeding information to his brain. There was a slight itch around his collar bone; he reached up to scratch it, and felt frayed wool under his fingers.
He was wearing his favourite blue jumper. He hadn’t gone to bed with that on, had he?
The haze drifted away, and Gordon realised that the question was moot, because he wasn’t in bed at all. There was no mattress and no pillow beneath him. He was on his feet. Looking down, he saw his new black trainers with the green laces, and a shining metal bar against his belly. It was a turnstile.
He smelled petrol. To his right, there came an echoing female voice. “The train approaching Platform 2 is the 8:47 Transpennine Express to Barrow in Furness.”
To his left, an Asian man in a green florescent vest was looking at him suspiciously.
Something small, orange and white slipped out of his right hand and fluttered to the ground; a train ticket.
The next step was both reviewing other people’s assignments, and receiving reviews for our own. This showed me two things.
One, for all the experience I’ve gotten on this blog, giving a meaningful review of a 300-word piece is quite tricky. I tried to give a good combination of positive and constructive criticism, only to receive a review for my own story which was rather more comprehensive.
Two, perhaps I haven’t received enough negative criticism in my time as a writer, because I was rather disheartened to receive a negative review. Well, it raised some worthwhile points, and if you don’t get feedback, you’re not going to improve. So I’ll need to do the correct thing, take the comments on board, make something better – and continue to learn!