As the Facebook followers among you may have seen, on November 1st, I made a public declaration to write or undertake a creative activity, for every seasonal festival of the year.
Afterwards I realised, with horror, that there was no way that I would have time to craft those pieces until I considered them complete. I would have to put them out into the social media cosmos unfinished. My malformed children.
(That elicited in me something like the shame I experienced when my 2-year old son threw a tantrum on the floor of Tesco’s. Trying to manhandle him out, I glimpsed the queue of shoppers staring and tutting as they waited to get down the blocked aisle to their spaghetti.)
Following that moment of horror, the phrase practice what you preach sprung into my mind, and I took a deep breath, After all, I ask participants on both the real-world, and online Wild Words courses to share their work all the time, albeit in small groups rather than cosmos-wide.
In the Skype live check-in the other week, we had a spirited conversation about this very subject. One participant(speaking for most I suspect) said she didn’t have time to edit her work to her satisfaction, and was terrified of posting anything that wasn’t finished.
But the point is, (I remind myself as my finger hovers over the send button with regard to a piece about The Full Moon of November) that creative writing and stories are never finished. We could redraft even the same short poem for years - that’s the beauty, richness and magic of language.
In Herman Melville’s words,
God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draft- nay, but the draft of a draft.
- Moby Dick (Chapter 32 Paragraph 44)
That finish line is an illusion. It’s only ever that we make a choice to stop working on something, put it aside and do something else.
The purpose of stories is to hear others, and be heard. Stories are gifts in the giving, and gifts in the receiving. They are points of contact and meaning in a sea of meaningless life events. They are,
...but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.
- Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook
When we don't share them, we deprive them of their life-giving role.
In my approach to teaching creative writing, each draft of a piece is a stepping stone, with a particular purpose. For example, the first draft stage is about connecting with your passion for your subject and writing from a place of instinct. That’s all. It’s not about making sure the point of view is the strongest it could be, or checking to make sure you’ve got the colour red somewhere in the piece, or anything else for that matter.
The first draft doesn't have to do everything. It just has to give us solid ground under our feet, from which to step on up to somewhere else. It doesn't need to be perfect. Just like we don't need to be perfect. (As if we even knew what perfect was anyway!)
So many of us writers beaver away in our solitary rooms, isolated and struggling. Let's not deprive ourselves of the possibility to receive and offer support, because we don't feel ourselves, or our work, is right. We progress as writers when we are part of a community. It’s having other people around that gets us through times of block and hardship. And it's via human connections that people come to know about our work.
The way to be part of any community is to come to it just as you are. And to let your writing do the same. No-one will steal your ideas. The world is abundant in ideas and there are more than enough to go round. (It’s the willingness to do the work that not many people have). Anyway, no-one writes in exactly the way that you do. No one has your voice.
The Monthly Writing Prompt
It's not so much a prompt this month, as a challenge...
Share a first draft piece of work, something you are not entirely happy with, something that feels unfinished. Let it be the animal that it is. Absolutely unapologetically.
The Turning Year Prompt
If you'd like to join me in spinning some Wild Words around the seasonal festivals, here are the key dates this month:
-New Moon: Friday 11th November
-Winter Solstice, the shortest day: 04:48 Tuesday 22nd December
-Full Moon: Friday 25th December
There’s lots to announce this month! I’m beyond excited to unveil the new look Wild Words website, created by the talented Emma Wallace. Take a browse. Here's a summary of what you'll find.
-The online courses will continue to be thriving, supportive communities. However, in order to extend their reach, and to allow those on lower incomes to access the courses, for 2016I’ve lowered the prices to a bargain £95 per 7-week course.
For all the online courses (levels 1, 2, and 3), the start dates for 2016 are:
-Monday 1st February 2016
-Monday 2nd May 2016
-Monday 3rd of October 2016
I expect them to fill up quickly! Register here.
I’m delighted to announce the first Wild Words residential immersive weeks in Southern France, which will take place in 2016.
-Spring retreat: Monday 18th- Saturday 23rd April 2016
-Autumn retreat: Monday 3rd October - Saturday 8th October 2016
-As well as that we’re preparing a Wild Words UK tour of literary and arts festivals for summer 2016. If you are involved in organising an arts or literary event, and would like me to attend, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
-There's still time to enter The Biannual Wild Words Writing Competition, which closes on December 21st. See here.
-This monthly newsletter will continue to go out as usual in 2016. However you will now receive it on the third (rather than the first) Monday of each month. This is in order to be able to prompt you before the beginning of each new lunar month.
-You are ongoingly invited to share writing about the seasonal festivals, lunar landmarks, and turning of the year on the Wild Words Facebook page (please don’t let me post alone!)
-I'm enjoying publishing writer's stories about their creative processes, on the Wild Words Facebook page. Whatever kind of writer you are, if you would like to share yours, please send me up to 400 words on the subject. I'll also need a photograph of you looking directly to camera, and preferably holding the tools of the writer's trade.
I look forward to sharing the continued journey into freedom through creative expression with you all. Have a very happy December.
Thank you for being part of Wild Words.
Founder, Wild Words