It’s Monday, and I’ve just come through a Shortbread Stories writing course weekend. The weather was perfect – pelting down with rain, not a patch of blue sky in sight to distract from the topic at hand (editing) – and the students were lovely. It was a small group (all women again; am I seeing a trend?) and they each were creative, dedicated and intriguing writers. I sincerely hope to cross their paths again.
One of the reasons it was such a good weekend was because of the chat. Of course we talked about writing, specifically editing (as that was the theme of the weekend), but we also discussed personal hobbies, families, and had extremely interesting discussions about life, the universe and everything. Robin Pilcher gave a talk on the editing of his own manuscripts and Karen Graham came along for an hour to discuss how to submit your writing to a contest or publication. However, even these ‘lectures’ were hardly lectures. They were free discussions between everyone at hand. Robin told a very interesting story about being forced to pick up a hitchhiker who may or may not have been targeted by some form of corporate mafia. Karen discussed her academic work and her own writing.
Yes, there was much digressing, mostly lead by my own inability to stay on topic, but I don’t think conversational tangents are a bad thing in a creative writing class. Isn’t writing connected to all?
Can a writing group help each other better if they know one another’s interests, style and beliefs? Does a discussion about a cycling weekend, or a trip to the Cairngorms, adjust the feedback you might give to a fellow student about their piece on hill walking? For the most part, my answer is ‘yes’.
Of course, tangents can go on too long, and this is often the reason many writing groups do not last. Very quickly they become social circles in which little writing is discussed.
However, as long as the group comes back to the topic of writing, I think a little digression can do a group good. I believe the best writing groups are those that like to speak freely. Those that don’t feel hindered in their conversation. The groups in which questions are asked and answered by all parties. I love a writing circle that can discuss and share, always coming back to the point of writing; feeling that the act of sharing makes them each more creative.
It was most certainly a good weekend, and I look forward to the next Shortbread Course and all the discussions that it may bring.
PS- Go to Shortbread stories for an extended version of this post.