Friday, October 2, 2009

Using Writing Courses to Best Advantage

It's the season for learning and the autumnal writing courses are in full swing. While it's generally thought that writers should be writing not attending courses, benefits can be achieved from well-run, well constructed writing courses, convened by a writer of proven ability.

The first thing the best of writing courses do is to help participants to both recognise and realise their writing dream. To achieve this it's necessary to instil in participants a sense of regular writing. This business of actually getting down to writing can frequently be a huge hurdle for beginners.

So how can it be resolved? Time is precious and there is always work to be done - dishes to be washed, dogs to be walked, children to be bathed.

I've been writing for years and while I love what I do and feel privileged, yet on many occasions I'd prefer to count the gravel in the driveway than settle down to write. Note I haven't said either sit at my desk or go to my office! Writing can be done almost anywhere. And you don't need a computer - it can be done on scraps of paper, notepads, anything as long as you're getting down your thoughts.

My golden rule for myself and for those attending my courses is to write for either two hours a day - more about that in a minute, or to write a certain amount of words each day, say 1000. The two hours a day concept is interesting: research has shown that our brainpower reduces after two hours of intense concentration. And concentration is required for writing. The thinking behind this two hours philosophy is that it takes about 15 minutes to wind into writing and peak. At around an hour and 50 minutes our attention and ability begin to flag and we begin to wind down.

Writing is like any other skill. It takes practice.

Even if you haven't yet come up with your big story, you can still write. Look out your window and write what you see. Think of a neighbourhood character and describe him or her. Do a 'what if' on an incident.

With practice you will become skilled in the creative act of writing. Attending a writing course each week is a great impetus and an ideal way to hone your skills, as well as learning and enjoying reacting with a group of like-minded people.

Enjoy and remember: 'Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book.' Ralph Waldo Emerson said that - and, of course, women are included!!