This topic has been debated hundreds of times, of course, and I’ve touched on it before on this blog. Yet I was reminded again recently as a colleague and I interviewed a possible PhD student. I’ve probably moderated my ideas gradually over the years. Many people still have difficulty grasping this concept and even those of us closely involved in them continue the debate.
Friday, 29 August 2014
Friday, 15 August 2014
That dreaded question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” We don’t know, do we? They tend just to arrive. Or is it a little different in classroom within a university? Perhaps anyway that whole question is the subject of someone’s PhD thesis.
Writing with constraints
My students have to work with many constraints. They meet at a fixed time each week. They have a strict deadline for their final project. Knowledge and skills have been squeezed into a closely defined collection of learning outcomes and particular ones are tested in particular modules. At the same time, they must demonstrate a good grasp of what has been learned formerly and they are given credit for their general writing competence. They must endeavour to demonstrate that if they wish to receive high marks. There is little space for a shortage of ideas.
The classroom creative writing exercise
We ask them to invent a character, create a setting or write a few lines of dialogue, each time giving them the loosest of themes. Most get on well. A few find this impossible. I personally enjoy being in this position and several concrete ideas have come out of creative writing exercises in workshops. Many students refer in their reflective statements to an exercise in class that kick-started a whole thread of narrative.
Everyone has a story
What people know is always interesting. All lives are fascinating. Those who have low literacy skills often also have low esteem and believe they don’t have a story to tell. The Ministry of Stories works with this. Show people they have a valid story and they find the literacy skills to be able to tell it. They’re motivated to learn.
Bombardment of ideas
Ideas come at many writers from all over the place. It’s not often when they’re sitting at their desk though a professional that writers stumble upon ideas.
We’re aware all of the time that there are stories to be had and our “What if?” and “What’s happening here?” questions help us. Are those two people who dress in red and white all the time Father Christmas and his wife on holiday? What if somebody who had a gun in their handbag were shown into the wrong anteroom and came face to face with Hitler? Why is that women hanging around and the edge of the restaurant and why are the staff being so dismissive of her?
And when do we think these things?
Usually when we’re driving, ironing, cooking, walking the dog or dining with friends. Rarely when we’re at our desk.
A shortage of ideas?
I’m fine for novels. I have three more historical ones planned, one contemporary slightly paranormal one after that and my science fiction trilogy is begging expansion. However, I’m in a massive editing cycle and like to punctuate that with writing flash and short fiction. I have a few ideas but not as many as I need. What do I do? I open Twitter and write a story about the first picture I come across. I rarely struggle. So it seems, it can be forced.
Friday, 1 August 2014
“Sometimes, if you go through that door,” said my colleague, “you find the library. And sometimes you don’t.” We were sitting in the canteen that in true Creative Café Project fashion is not just a place that serves food and drink; it’s a place for the meeting of minds.
He is quite right. The Adelphi Building at the University ofSalford is a little like that. Frequently I’ve taken the wrong turn out of the staff room and ended up in a corridor I didn’t recognise. Or I’ve accidentally gone down to the basement and thought I’ve entered another universe.
It is mysterious. You’re on the first floor and suddenly you have to go down a flight of stairs to the other bit of the first floor.