Most days are very similar around here, getting up when the first of the maggots wakes up and demands attention…making breakfast/lunch/dinner, entertaining the brood, changing nappies, keeping the entropy in check, eventually going to bed and repeating it all again the next day. Yesterday was different, yesterday I went to Catherine Deveny’s Gunnas Writing Masterclass.
I write, obviously, you are reading my writing now but blogging comes relatively easy to me. It’s mostly ranting anyway or just some pictures thrown together and for some reason I rarely encounter any difficulties pressing the “publish” button. Ok, I sometimes encounter the problem of over-thinking and over-editing what I write and then need to force myself to let go and just throw the piece out there but this doesn’t happen too often. It happens when something is close to my heart. The more important a piece of writing is to me, the harder it becomes to finish and publish it. The longer I am editing, re-writing, polishing the words the harder it becomes to let go. There is one novel I’m working on and off for nearly 20 years now and it’s writing with my heart’s blood and I am at the point where I am petrified.
The lovely wife presented me with a gift voucher for the writing class for Christmas and I was really looking forward to go. I had no idea what was going to happen and I didn’t have any expectations other than “even if it’s completely useless I will spend a day in the company of people older than 4”, which is a rare thing for me anyway and needs to be treasured.
I bade farewell to the brood and the wife and made my way out of the sticks into the big city. When I turned the last corner to the venue I saw a group of 15-20 people standing in the classical “we are not sure what will happen next” pose people usually adopt on those occasions. It came as a bit of a surprise that all the other attendees were of the female persuasion and my inner cynic immediately groaned “Argh, poems about Mother Moon and the menstrual cycle” but I reminded myself that I will keep an open mind and I didn’t run.
After all I’m used to the “being the only guy in a room full of women experience”, I was the only man in the mother’s group with Otto and that was awesome. The good times I sat together with a bunch of great women who casually exposed their breasts. After the inner cynic and the inner dirty old man had their say I reminded myself of my true convictions. People are just people, gender stereotypes are nonsense and who am I to judge anyway?
We entered a room in the first floor and sat down and Catherine started. That woman is a force of nature, very energetic, confident and positive. She describes herself a “non fuck giver” and I guess that fits. We got paired up (I was threesomed) had five minutes to introduce us and then we spent the next hours introducing our partner and Catherine moderated and talked to us. It was quite entertaining and a very laid back way to combine introductions I actually remember with imparting knowledge for writers.
The all female group (I am actually male but I slipped into my “lesbian trapped in male body” identity) has very different dynamics compared with an all male or male dominated group. Within the first half hour we learned that Catherine can write with her breasts and that Evelyn has a perfect vagina. We talked about writing, where, when and how and about motivation. A lot that Catherine told us was nothing new and you could probably condense the factual content of the class on one page. This wasn’t about the facts or the information, you could as well read a book or webpage for it. The atmosphere of openness, non judgemental people sharing a goal -us being women we open up a lot more than men- made all the difference how the information was received. I think I learned a few things yesterday, that I’ve had read a thousand times.
The centre and catalyst of those great dynamics was Catherine Deveny, like a squirrel on speed, with ADHD, she became the stern teacher teaching you facts, the old colleague handing out pearls of wisdom, the stand up comedian making you laugh, the older sister telling of her experiences. She made me feel good about myself. I always hesitate before using words like “good vibe” or “positive energy” because they smell of incense but Catherine created a feeling that can only be described as [insert positive Hippy term of choice here].
As the day progressed we did a few writing exercises that were quite interesting and revealing. Being confronted with a pen, paper and the order to not stop writing for five minutes I produced a real-time inner monologue that was even funny at places. When given a picture of a boy with a boot bigger than him and a cheeky grin, the word “Hula Hoop” and the sentence “trying to burp but actually vomiting on the floor” and some writing prompts on the side I managed to write my first children’s story. Actually that was the start of it, when we had another 10 minutes to write whatever we want I re-wrote it slightly. Now I only have to edit and I have a new story for Otto and I’m sure he will love it…
I was sad when it was 4pm and we had to stop. But some of us decided to continue the workshop but we’d add what had been missing: alcohol. We are writers after all. We sat outside the Kent Hotel on a glorious summer afternoon and talked and talked and talked.
It was a great day and I’m glad that I went and learned things and met awesome people. I missed my train, though…twice, which is quite hard to do but it gave me the opportunity to ride on the last train Saturday night out into the sticks…
…but that is another story…