All writers must learn personal lessons along the pathway to their literary dreams. Like any profession, there are a multitude of steps to success; not always moving in the desired direction, but most definitely with an end goal in sight.
I will never forget the very first lesson I learned - for two reasons:
1. It drove me to the brink of my sanity trying to correct it.
2. It earned me my first reward for my writing efforts.
Ten years ago, I signed up for the Comprehensive Creative Writing Course with the Writer’s Bureau; a dream I chose to follow after leaving a life and career in London to move to the countryside to raise our children.
I started the course with ignorant enthusiasm, following a passion that has niggled me since I used to write short stories as a child; not the fairy tale/fantasy style stories of a day dreamer, mine were much more gritty, real-life stories, influenced by the characters I scrutinised in the school corridors and playground. Coming from a mixed-race background I experienced a great deal of conflict in school that translated very readably onto a blank page.
Anyway, I digress. Back to my first lesson. Something that was addressed very early on in my writing course by my tutor, was the fact that I typed two spaces after a full-stop. This was a rule I had learned many years before in school and assumed was still the norm. But no, apparently not so anymore, and I was advised to correct the habit and only use one space after a full stop. This was fair comment, but do you think I could manage it without suffering some kind of withdrawal?
Habits become subconscious thoughts - actions that are executed without direction or purpose - and are therefore difficult to consciously change. Two spaces after a full stop were like a melody to me. For years working at a desk, typing reports, I created my own rhythm - full-stop, space, space; full-stop, space, space; full-stop, space, space...etc.
If you look closely you will notice that I did in fact master it, but not without a fight. The frustration and distraction I suffered to permanently lose just one little space loosened a small thread of my sanity. I even developed a nervous twitch when contemplating the use of the space bar, my usual fluid touch on the keys maddeningly disturbed. I reached a definite point of despair, convinced that this silly, insignificant space would be the ruin of my literary goals.
But I would not admit defeat. I chose to calm my anxiety and conquer this battle. I sent myself back to school and meticulously typed lines:
One space after a full stop. One space after a full stop. One space after a full stop...
You get the picture. After completing enough pages of lines to give myself serious repetitive strain injury, I finally triumphed, and the poor, un-loved second space was no more.
Rather than grieve over it, I decided to use this lesson to my advantage. One of the early assignments on my course was to produce some fillers to send to magazines. These fillers took the form of reader’s letters, anecdotes, tips, etc. that were suitable for a chosen magazine and audience. I wrote to Writer’s Forum magazine with the story of my second space nightmare, and they not only published it, but I was awarded a beautiful mole-skin notebook for my efforts. My first recognition as a writer - as you can imagine, I was elated!
The Writer’s Bureau offer a wide range of writing courses. If you have a little niggle urging you to write, then address it. All the courses can be studied from home, in your own time. You will have contact with expert tutors who are all professional writers, and other students via a supportive forum; it is a hugely rewarding experience. Click on the image below for more information.
A quick update on The Road to Merville...it’s going well, and I am still working on chapter 7. I am currently more involved with some extensive research, so actual writing is slow. My next post will include more about my progress, and about character point of view which has been troubling me. See you then.