At some stage in our lives most of us will find something we want to write down: perhaps to keep a record of some real event, to reason out our thoughts and beliefs on the page or maybe just to exercise our creativity and imagination. The trouble is, many of us carry an amount of baggage that prevents us from getting started. Writing can be an exposing thing to do, you might be worried that you’ll feel silly or embarrassed or suffer from the old ‘who do you think you are’ syndrome that gets in the way of getting on in many areas of life. If that sounds familiar I can tell you that you’re not alone. For every creative writing course we’ve either attended or run the most frequently asked question has been, is this for me? Take heart. If you’ve reached the point where you’re asking the question, the answer is most probably a resounding yes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re penning your first ever 500 words or working on your next novel, what most of us need is a healthy dose of encouragement and a little guidance to get us started, build confidence and steer us clear of literary faux-pars.

So, in the spirit of committing to new things for the año nuevo, here are a a few writing FAQs to help you decide if the time is right to pick up your pen or start tapping those keys.

What if I’m not good at reading?

Neuroscientists measuring brain activity have determined that the act of reading and the act of writing activate totally different parts of the brain. The living proof of this has been demonstrated in a number of stroke survivors who have lost the ability to read, yet have no difficulty with writing. Whether you read a book a week or a book a year, it isn’t a measure of how well you can write.

What if English isn’t my first language?

If you know enough English to understand this, you know enough English. Creative writing is a fantastic way to develop skill in expressing yourself, because it’s inherently playful. A personal goal for us is to one-day write creatively in Spanish, so if English isn’t your first language, but you’d like to have a go, we’d love to hear from you.

What if I didn’t do very well at school?

Lots of people don’t do well at school. Fi and I didn’t either and we both returned to education in our 20’s and 30’s. School classrooms just don’t suit everyone. The great thing about creative writing as an adult is that many of the so-called rules are there to be broken. If you’re worried about punctuation, we can show you famous writers who don’t use any (or at least use very little.) If you’re worried about grammar, we can show you books written entirely in colloquial style where the rules of grammar matter not a jot. Good creative writing is more often about deciding on your own rules and then staying true to them. It’s about having fun.

What if everyone else is really good and I’m not?

This is not a competition and there’s no such thing as perfect writing. In everything you write, something will work brilliantly and something else will need tweaking. Sharing your work with a supportive, friendly group is the best way to develop your craft and build your confidence.

What if I don’t have anything to say?

Everyone has something to say. Sure, if you’re writing fiction, it helps to have a good imagination. If you’re writing about nature or people, it pays to be observant. When writing poetry it’s best to ponder and it always pays to care about the beauty of written language when it conjures everything you want it to say, but you can’t be alive without something affecting you and if it has, you have something to say.

by Andrew L Reynolds


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