To dedicate a life to the making of
beautiful things is my thing. Often this has been difficult. But I’m still trying. Hence the previously mentioned University of Iowa MOOC, which I successfully completed. Yay. This course was useful for short story feedback and introducing authors I’d not read before. It was interesting seeing how people write and interpret the stories of others. Many offering feedback didn’t want suspense, they wanted narratives hard and clear and obvious. Meanwhile some students luxuriated in description and ambiguity. Some students had never come across unreliable narrators before and hitherto had believed fiction consisted of made up truths. Thus the course presented interesting insights and debates, but it didn’t give me that undefinable thing I was looking for.
Then I came across Tim Clare’s The Couch to 80k Writing Boot Camp. This free serial podcast is like a dose of common sense presented in a soothing but jaunty guess-where-I’m-from-in-the-United-Kingdom accent. As soon as I started I worked out it was what I was looking for all along.
This serial is designed to be listened to one episode a time for eight weeks. But it’s not just about listening. Oh no, there is much healthy doing. Each episode features a 10 minute writing exercise. Sometimes this is a ‘free write’ while other episodes offer more structure, with weeks building upon weeks. What I appreciate about Clare is more than his delivery. He is practical.
Without delivering his content secondhand, what this podcast offers are tools. He encourages writing without needing it to be *good* and then provides a space and methods to enable writing to happen. And writing has happened.
Clare might deny it but he is a bit of a psychologist. He has questioned and battled the demons of doubt and despair when it comes to achieving something with the written word. Yet, it is not his understanding that helps, it is the fact that Clare’s perspective offers context to the action he asks of you. It means when you complete an exercise Clare sets out, you have written despite of and to interrogate the kind of mental, psychological and emotional blocks many have in place to stop them being creative. But you don’t even have to think about this. Just listen and write.
I have a way to go, and that goes for the course as well as for combating my blocks, but I can see already that Clare’s methods do what he says they do. He explains his system is robustly evidenced based. I am inclined to believe him, because the proof lies in my own work. I’m not saying there’ll be grand art made…but I’m being presented with ways to grapple with self-doubt which has resulted in new writing. This has been so much more effective than praise from MOOC students. Affirmation from fellow writers was welcome, but it did not give me what Clare’s process has.