Monthly Archives: November 2017

Things that every poet is tired of hearing

That’s right, I’m going on a rant again – because everybody should do what they’re good at. Which brings me to today’s topic: Things that I as a creative writing student am absolutely tired of hearing.
There are these lines, repeated over and over again, sometimes by friends, often by family, mostly by acquaintances, always tedious. And, by the way: never funny.

Here’s what I mean:

North American Friend: So, how’s your studies going?

Me (refraining from correcting their English): Very stressful, there’s only two weeks left in the semester, and…

North American Friend: Ahh, c’mon, it can’t be that hard, it’s only writing, right? Don’t you mostly sit around and get drunk? That’s what being a writer is all about, I don’t think you’re doing it right!
One-sided laughter follows.
Maybe you should’ve went with a more challenging programme!

Me (now pissed and no longer seeing any reason to control my non-native grammatical arrogance): First of all, not your most original moment. Secondly, it’s “should have gone”. And lastly and FYI, we are all working our asses off!

North American Friend: Yeah, right. Why are you doing this anyways? You know, in order to be successful as a writer, you’d have to be, like, so lucky…

Me: Not lucky. Just good.

North American Friend: It’s so unlikely though, I mean, to make a living of it, you’d have to become a star or something!

Me: Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. At least I know I won’t ever have to get up in the morning thinking that I didn’t try. Or that I’m stuck in mediocrity doing something I loathe. How’s life as a nine-to-fiver?

North American silence.



Grandmother (translated from German): How are you doing with your studies, sweetheart?

Me: Well, it’s a lot of fun and very enriching, but there is also a lot of pressure.

Grandmother: Really? Do you have so many exams?

Me: Oma, I don’t have exams, I’m becoming a writer. I write.

Grandmother: Oh, well that doesn’t sound too bad…

Me: It’s not bad, it’s just very demanding.

Grandmother: And what exactly will you do with this degree when you’re done?

Me (after a deep, calming breath): I don’t need to know that yet, Oma, what matters is that this is what I want to do with my life. I have always wanted to write, you know that. I am doing it because I have no other choice if I want to be happy. I am doing it for very good reasons. Everything that I’ve done up until this point has been leading me here. There’s no turning back. I’m all in.

Grandmother: But you have such a good, useful degree, you could make more money in…

Me (interrupting, as I have heard this many too many times before): I’m not in it for the money, Oma, I’m in it for the challenge of my life. And for fulfilment.

German silence.



Acquaintance: So what do you study?

Me: Creative Writing. Postgrad.

Scottish silence.

Writing solo

It’s week nine and the pile of reading list books still doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I’ve accepted now that reading only parts of books until week 12 is a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing at this late stage of the game.

The last few weeks have been particularly fun but full-on. We’ve had a Writers Read with Daniel Shand who talked to us about his brilliant debut novel, Fallow. We also had a great masterclass from Chris Arthur who talked to us about the essay and gave us a handful of writing exercises which were really helpful for getting started on our own attempts – finally the essay makes sense!

The Dundee Literary Festival also took place at the end of October. I only managed to get along to two events but I made two excellent choices! The first one was ‘Nasty Women’ featuring three contributors, Jen McGregor, Alice Tarbuck and Becca Inglis, who had written essays for 404 Ink’s sensational collection. Topics ranged from Courtney Love to birth control which made for a really interesting hour of conversation.

I also listened to Erland Clouston’s hilarious but fascinating insight into the life of Nan Shepherd, ‘Zen and the Art of Rucksack Maintenance’. I love Nan’s book The Living Mountain so I was pretty excited about this one but Erland, Nan’s literary executor and family friend, didn’t disappoint.

Last week, I made a trip up to Inverness to interview the very lovely, Cynthia Rogerson. I’d met Cynthia earlier in the year at Moniack Mhor but it was great to find out more about what brought her to the Highlands from California, and her process for writing wonderful novels.

I’ve been very conscious of the fast-approaching deadlines of weeks ten and twelve so this week I decided to take off to the Isle of Skye for a couple of days by myself – and what a productive few days they’ve been! It’s amazing how much more you can achieve when there’s no distractions of day-to-day life. Details of my escapades are on my personal blog and I certainly don’t think this will be the last time I take off on a solo adventure!