I've just returned home from a weekend in Sydney doing something that was entirely for me and nobody else. I attended a weekend course at The Australian Writers' Centre, deepening my knowledge of writing with their course, Writing Books for Children and Young Adults.
Most women, and mothers in particular, will tell you that the idea of doing something entirely for themselves would riddle them with guilt. Ah, guilt, we meet again. Probably, it will be ever present, following me around and tapping me on the shoulder with its crooked finger. But I think you just have to let it be your silent stalker. I think it's part of the deal. However, that doesn't mean I need to pay it any heed.
You will never be thanked, or indeed, paid for feeling guilty. This is not a place to bother focusing your energy. I can't stop guilt from hitching a ride on my trip, but I can tell it to sit quietly in the backseat and not distract me whilst I'm driving.
A fight erupts in the backseat
The other stowaway on my educational mini-break fighting with guilt in the backseat was fear. During this creative writing pursuit there is usually this other uninvited guest. Because, let's face it, writers put parts of themselves on a page and make it available for public consumption, and in turn, scrutiny. It's like the dream where you walk into a room full of people only to discover that you're completely naked.
I've concluded that there is nothing for it but to feel the fear and do it anyway. Like guilt, you will never be thanked or paid for feeling fearful.
So there they were, sitting in the backseat, poking each other in the ribs. Guilt and fear, doing their best to make a nuisance of themselves.
I accept now that they may well always be there. But the more I practice feeling the fear and doing it anyway, the easier it is to pay little to no attention to what's going on behind me.
Creativity takes courage
Our presenter for the weekend, Sue Whiting, wrote on the board, 'creativity takes courage.' That message was left there for the duration of the course and I referred to it often.
There were several poignant moments over the weekend where students, and also our presenter, demonstrated great courage. Everyone had a story that needed to be told, one they were desperate to get out of them. Each person was compelled to take the course and find a way to tell it. Investing time, money and energy in the pursuit of one's own creativity, despite whatever the outcome may be, that's courage.
It's time to put your big girl pants on
Yes, creativity does take courage. But it seems to me that if you've been able to be brave once, you can do it again. Every time you practice bravery, the easier it becomes, and the quieter the backseat.
That's going to come in handy, because although creativity takes courage, so does perseverance, maybe even more so. Answering the call to our inspiration and aspirations is one thing, having the sheer bloody mindedness to carry on regardless, is another. It is the only thing that will count if we ever want to know what it's like to score that seemingly elusive publishing deal.
A sore jaw and a glass of wine
The course was fantastic. It went by in the blink of an eye. We may in fact have worn out poor Sue's mandibular joint. At the very least she needed to have a sit down and a cup of tea (or similar).
Having just completed a separate year long correspondence course, doing classroom based learning amongst other students, and face to face with a teacher was invaluable. Being able to share ideas, ask questions and get lost in deep discussion was worth everything it took for me to be there. If I can find a way to repeat the exercise, I most definitely will!
The dangers of being a perpetual student
You can only be a student for so long. It would be too easy to fall into the trap of doing course after course and never feel qualified enough to actually produce the work you are training for. So now the real work begins. I know a whole lot more of what I didn't know before and undoubtedly I'll learn a whole lot more along the way. But for the foreseeable future it is bum in seat time. All other distractions, be gone. Between now and the end of the year the goal is to FINISH THE DAMN BOOK.