Recently I have been feeling as uninspired to write as ever. After calling some of my friends who are still studying at university, I gathered that it is a very common feeling right now. One of my friends is in the final year of her art degree, with an online degree show approaching – not the way she intended her art to be seen. She was clearly disappointed but said she was happy to still be creating work all the same.
One of my favourite things about this course is that it forces me to write. I have too easily before put my lack of writing down to various circumstances – but I can see now those were merely an assortment of lies. When I have a deadline or a creative writing workshop to write for it always gets done (perhaps slowly and awfully but completed all the same).
The other day I was sitting at my desk racking my brain for anything to put down on paper. I couldn’t help but get distracted by the snow outside my window. It kept stopping and starting but as soon as it started I immediately felt mesmerised by it.
It reminded me of something my sister said about winter: “I prefer cold weather. You can always add on a layer of clothing but you can’t take off your skin.” Then, just like that I felt as if I owed it to her and her wonderful humour to put that in a story. So I did.
Recently I have been inspired to write straight after I read the works of others and think ‘I wish I wrote that’. I think this the most when I am reading Grace Paley’s work.
When I first starting writing I attempted poetry, but it never really worked in the way I wanted it to. I got very easily frustrated with it. I had too much to say and I felt constrained by the fundamentals of poetry. On the other hand, I always felt like novels were too frightening to begin and attempt – I feared maybe I didn’t have enough to say.
I first came across Grace Paley’s writing at school, during an English exam. We had to write a close reading analysis on Grace Paley’s short story, ‘Wants’. I was completely stunned by how much life she could fit into such a small amount of writing. I think that was when my love of short stories began and I have been writing short stories ever since then.
In ‘Wants’, Grace Paley writes very movingly on bumping into an ex-husband and manages to slip in subtle poignant statements: ‘I don’t argue when there’s real disagreement’. I often think of her combination of both subtlety and boldness when I write – I try to practice the art of bringing both elements into one short piece.
It’s not something I have mastered by any means but something I have been trying more and more. I like reading The Collected Stories of Grace Paley to put me in a more experimental writing mood. Grace Paley gets me to try new things and expands my horizons, does she have that influence on you too?
When the original lockdown started last year I remember the difficulty I had in completing my undergraduate dissertation – a selection of short stories. I wanted my writing to be full of humour but struggled massively. Life in that moment wasn’t particularly funny.
I tried my best to push past it all those months ago, scribbling notes into a journal. I tried to make notes every single day and sometimes it would only be a line, other times it would be paragraphs. I would try to be inspired by the walks I went on or the irritating traits of my family.
I would never have thought that ten months later I would be in the exact same scenario – uninspired in another lockdown. But I am hoping this blog will force me to keep up with my writing, especially on the days where it feels like I can’t find something to say.
Lydia Davis once said it is important to observe your own feelings (but not at tiresome length). This is definitely something I hadn’t thought too much of until last year. The confinement forces everyone to observe their own feelings, always at a tiresome length.
The silver lining to all of my writing troubles is that I have more time now than ever to write. For now I will go back to the notes I have made in my journal and try to write a story about anything different to what is happening around the world now. I have always loved that part of writing – the escapism.
I started to miss studying creative writing the moment I finished my undergraduate course. I have always loved reading what someone else is thinking and feeling – the moment you find someone else is describing perfectly how you feel in that given moment.
I grew up in London, moved briefly to Scotland, then to Switzerland. I was happy to return to Scotland for my undergraduate studies, and definitely don’t plan on leaving Scotland anytime soon.
My writing is usually inspired by the people around me. I am fascinated by the human experience and the relationships we form with one another. I always aim to write with wit and sensitive observation. I find short stories work well for what I have to say. I love reading poetry but have never had much luck with writing it.