I took a creative writing class recently. The teacher was wonderful, and I was lucky enough to lure her out for a couple of pints with me one evening. I obviously could not resist boring her with a mention of my blog at some point. My blog is entirely different from the sort of writing we were learning in her class.
She was teaching us to be more observant and to look at the world as a series of images. Instead of snapping the images with a smartphone and sticking them on Instagram, we practised turning those images into words. It was a different way of thinking about writing for me.
Being an avid reader and even a sort of literary critic (having a PhD in English Literature qualifies me for that, right?), I thought I really ought to know about fiction writing. But I don’t. I know how to read something and write a killer essay about what it means. The creative writing class has opened my eyes to thinking more about description, image and metaphor in my writing.
And now I am seeing it everywhere. The very best journalists are doing it. The critics and columnists that I admire are doing it. And I wish I could do it.
During this pint with my teacher, she asked me: “Isn’t blogging not keeping your powder dry?”. I didn’t know what she meant at first. She explained that writers often prefer to keep all their little darlings a secret until they’re ready to unleash them on the world in flamboyant fashion. You keep your gunpowder dry so that it makes a big explosion once you finally light it.
I didn’t answer her at the time. The conversation flowed away from the question. But I’ve been thinking about it since. And sometimes I see other bloggers in our secret (not that secret) blogger Facebook groups saying how they’ve lost their blogging mojo, they forgot why they love it, it feels like it’s all hustle and no creativity.
And it reminds me that I started blogging because I didn’t have any bloody gunpowder. I didn’t write creatively at all and I feared writing. My confidence in my creative writing skills had become so undermined at some point in the past that I couldn’t stand to look at my own writing. It made me cringe.
When I started blogging I decided to face these fears and say to hell with my lack of confidence. My husband always tells me that the best way to feel confident is to fake it until you feel it. His example is when you try to pour a drink from one glass to another. If you doubt yourself, it will spill everywhere. Pour it all at once with panache, and everything will be fine.
And so with blogging I’m not wetting my gunpowder but stockpiling it. I’m learning to write in public. I’m practising my craft whilst leaving myself exposed to the possibility that someone will openly tell me I’m crap. And it’s actually exhilarating. And far more likely to lead me to the sort of writing that might actually cause a commotion.