I don’t understand… but I’ll make sure I do (one day)

Perhaps what I’m getting most from my fellow students is that they think I have a tremendous amount of confidence. And that’s true, I guess. But only because I know there’s a world full of people just waiting to not believe in you, if you give them the chance. Which I don’t. They’re easy to spot, as often they are walking around with the shards of their own broken dreams littering their sensibly priced fleece. I’m a believer, a hoper, and an ardent follower of my dreams, but that doesn’t always feel like confidence, it doesn’t mean I am not fully aware of my shortcomings. And this week proves that point spectacularly.

IMG_6613            I have a reading list as long as an escapee toilet roll that my cat has decided is more entertaining than an episode of FRIENDS, and all I can think of is how woefully under equipped I am to properly appreciate these novels. I’m a lazy reader. I want to be entertained. To fall into a world so unlike my own and feel for people that exist only in my heart. I was discussing today with the wonderful Poppy how, if an author doesn’t explicitly state what they mean (she cried hysterically), then I probably won’t get it. Many a paragraph has been read and re-read because I can tell there’s something there I’m supposed to be picking up, some morsel of information that the entire plot hinges on, but often, I just can’t. And so if the book doesn’t flow with a good story, then I just can’t immerse myself in it. Technical brilliance or no.

It could have been that I never paid enough attention in English class. I didn’t want to know what an adverb was, I wanted to see one being used. I wanted to run before I could walk. Laborious reading of heavy texts may have instilled within me an aversion habit, and for that, I certainly do not blame my English teachers. But I better understand the rowdy kids that never paid attention in History class now. Because nothing is more boring than something we don’t understand. The Sound of Fury by William Faulkner is one of those books for me, the technically brilliant ones whose composition changed the way we write and read. Decry me as an indolent fool, as that may be what I am, but the constant time jumping just threw me for six, right out of his own novel and into the more forgiving arms of Philippa Gregory. I feel stupid as I type this. I feel like an indolent fool. I couldn’t read Wuthering Heights during my time in China, I don’t always fully understand what Shakespeare is on about and Jane Austen is synonymous in my head with Keira Knightley. I want to understand. Truly, I’d love to type to you all as a master of Chaucer and Twain, a veritable encyclopaedia of prose composition and poetic metaphors. But I’m just not. I like stories. I write stories. I’m not an English student, I’m a book reader. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever be.

I’m just beginning to read His Bloody Project by Graeme MaCrae Burnet and I am IMG_6631terrified I won’t get past page 65. However, there’s something pleasant about this anticipation, this fear, which is reminiscent of starting university way back in 2011. Leaving my comfort zone. No excursion beyond our limits, beyond our little kingdom of safe words and experiences, ever leaves us empty handed. As I listen to the advice of wiser readers, their suggestions my compass pointing North, and begin my journey down a reading list I’d have never thought to venture down, I know I’ll find some skills, some techniques, and some pleasure that I can bring back to my safe space. And hey, who knows, maybe I’ll even find a new favourite along the way. And maybe, just possibly, I may even understand what they’re saying.




I’m Too Shy to Call Myself a Writer

Why am I doing this course? Simple. The late, great and lovely Jim Stewart told me to. I was sitting in his office, eating tangerines, asking for advice on some work. We got talking about my plans for after uni and Jim told me to go for the MLitt. Another year spent working with the uniquely amazing creative writing department? Go on then. I’m extremely sorry and endlessly sad that Jim isn’t here to guide me this year, but I feel his influence on the course in every session. I’m extremely honoured to have been his student for three years and that he pointed me in this direction.

I think that what I want to get out of the course is maybe a little different to what other students want. I’ve been talking to my fellow classmates and they all have these amazing dreams and goals, many of them have completed novels and other pieces of writing to be proud of. Sitting amongst them, I feel wholly inadequate as any finished short story I have ever written has been the product of my undergrad creative writing modules and I have used them for my portfolios. I’m too shy to call myself a writer, especially around people who are proper writers.

I don’t spend much of my spare time writing because I don’t have much spare time. In the past few years I have spent my summers interning at New Writing North, editing their online magazine for young writers, Cuckoo Review, and mentoring at writing summer schools. I spent my summer this year travelling Hadrian’s wall working on Mansio (a travelling writing project inspired by the wall). I have volunteered at Hexham Book Festival twice and next weekend I am heading to the Durham Book Festival to help out. Whilst I have been lucky enough to be paid for some of these experiences, I’m the girl who will happily work for free if I get paid in literary experience. One of my favourite things ever is that moment that you see someone has been touched by literature; eyes wide, chest full and mouth about to spill out passion. I love seeing people use writing as therapy, I love watching minds change and open, I love when someone gets it. I want to live a life where I get to witness that every day. I’d love to be a writer myself, I think someone getting it and ‘it’ being something I had written must be extraordinary. Already on this course I have been able to witness people being inspired by the reading list and I’m really enjoying being surrounded by such passion.

I’m too shy to call myself a writer yet, but maybe by the end of the year, I’ll be creating work I am proud of, even finishing some of it, and hopefully I’ll be able to call myself a writer.