Hello, I’m Cameron. I recently graduated from the University of Dundee’s undergraduate English Literature and Creative Writing programme and now I’m back for another year of creativity and fun (and hard work).
Unlike some of my classmates on the Mlitt course, I haven’t always thought of myself as a writer. While I did enjoy reading as a child, at that time I didn’t fully understand why literature was important and therefore never really felt like trying to create it myself. To me books were just a form of entertainment. Something to keep me busy when I wasn’t out playing with my friends or watching television. This idea was no doubt sustained by the fact that I only ever read adventure stories. Jules Verne was my favourite writer as a kid. But as exciting and diverting as I found Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, I couldn’t connect anything in that novel to my own experience. I mean Phileas Fogg was an English gentleman who decided to circumnavigate the globe on a bet for a very large sum of money. That wasn’t like life. Not like my life anyway. That was absurd. And I felt the same way about almost every book I read as a child. All of them contained characters who were nothing like myself or anyone I knew and they were all doing things which I couldn’t imagine a real human being actually doing.
It wasn’t until I started watching American indie films from the 90s that I started to become interested in putting pen to paper myself. The film that really stands out as having completely changed my attitude towards writing is ‘Slacker’ by Richard Linklater. ‘Slacker’ has nothing in the way of plot. It’s more like a series of conversations. The camera follows a couple of characters for a while, the audience begins to get a sense of who they are, and then the camera will refocus on a passerby or someone in the background and follow them for a while. The characters share the camera frame for a moment but are otherwise unconnected. I had never seen a film like it before.The characters were young and relatable. They sounded like people I knew. People I was friends with. Me. They discussed trying to find a job, politics, conspiracy theories, the media, pop culture, anything that popped into their heads. It didn’t sound scripted at all. It all seemed so real. And this isn’t to say that I think good art has to be a perfect mirror of reality, or even a funhouse mirror of reality, in fact I don’t think it has to be connected to reality at all, but for me there was something enormously validating in watching an entire feature-length film of normal-looking people engaging in mostly mundane everyday dialogues. It taught me that when it comes to writing anything goes. My thoughts and feelings, conversations I’ve had, things I’ve done, places I’ve been. I realised all of it could be used as material. And since that discovery I’ve been a writer.