I staggered through my first “creative writing” teaching this weekend with the Guardian Masterclass series — staggered because I was less than well. Much less than well. To all my lovely students, apologies in advance if I managed to impart a horrible cold along with my bucket of wisdom.
I was humbled by the quality of my students, and had the reaction I’ve always worried about having if I set out to teach people about writing, mainly, what do I know? I can do it (sometimes) but what exactly do I KNOW about doing it?
For those with an attention span shorter than fourteen hours, here’s a precis of the very few things I do know:
- Voice is not about getting published. Or selling books. Or thinking about the market. Or writing chick-lit or fantasy or literary fiction the way you think it should be written.
- It’s about finding out who you are, how your reactions to life are different from anyone else’s, and what you have to say that isn’t like anyone else.
- The unique way that you see and tell a story (or ride a horse or dance Swan Lake) is the expression of your Voice. As the Talmud says, We do not see things as they are, we see them as WE are.
- You need confidence and self-knowledge to speak in your own Voice.
- The only real block to writing truthfully is being unable to access what is in your head and heart.
- A distinctive Voice will not just help you write well. It will help you do anything at all well.