If there was such a thing as a set of jump leads for your brain, I could’ve used a set over the last few weeks! After doing the same job for six years, autopilot was my daily setting. At times this was a cosy comfort blanket that meant I never lost any sleep worrying about work but my flabby brain was in definite need of a work out.
My creative writing course has certainly kicked started my brain! Weekly writing exercises have challenged the whole class. One of our favourites has been to write a series of pieces which start with, “When I was seventeen…” and the results from my fellow students have produced a range of emotions from funny to sometimes quite sad. It’s been really interesting hearing everyone’s work. The exercise I’ve enjoyed the most so far was to meaningfully include the following 5 things in a 1000 word piece. The things were a tower of top hats, the Oxford Book of Saints, Nescafe, a child standing in water and Bermuda. It wasn’t easy! There’s 7 of us in the group and it was fascinating to hear the other completely different versions on the exercise.
A highlight for me was the chance to hear the award winning novelist, Andrew O’Hagan deliver an excellent talk on, “Civic Memory: An Argument on the Character of Scottish Culture” to a packed audience.The talk was adapted from a provocative, insightful, and often comical lecture commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland and presented at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, exploring how our understanding of places in general and Scotland in particular depends on shared memories.
What aspiring writer doesn’t day-dream about leaving the 9-5 to give their writing 100% commitment? But every bit of advice insists, “Don’t give up the day job!”
But I ignored the screaming voices of reason and made a very very late application to university to do a Masters in Creative Writing. A week before the course started, I got the news that I’d been accepted. It felt scary and exciting in equal measures.
This week I received my last ever pay slip. The reality of what I’d done set in as I filed away the little scrap of paper. But instead of worrying, I felt liberated and thought, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
And I knew I’d made the right decision when I returned from my ‘Welcome Meeting’ at uni. For the first time in years my brain was buzzing with the challenges that the course was sure to throw at me.
At forty three years of age, I was way out of my comfort zone when I wandered around the Freshers’ Week stalls. It was weird. There was never any pole dancing clubs when I did my first degree! I wanted to stop to admire the skill and fitness of the girl demonstrating. But the look of terror on the acne ridden faces of the teenagers when I paused briefly at the stall made me keep on walking. Of course it was tempting to wind them up by pretending to want to join their club but I didn’t have the heart to cause such stress. One glance at me made it obvious that I was only able to polish the pole with Mr Sheen rather than my inner thighs.
At least my MLitt class was a safe haven from giggling girls planning what to wear to Dance Night at the Union. Almost everyone in class is mature in years or in attitude. It felt great to be surrounded with like-minded people and it was clear that everyone had made a sacrifice on one level or another to be there.
As a former Training Officer, I was for once on the other side of the desk. No longer the ring master and all I had to worry about was could I perform? Would I be able to cope with the workload, the reading,assignments, the creative writing exercises and the ordeal of having my work critiqued?
But I instantly started to calm down when the lecturer reassured the class that it’s sometimes too early to embark on creative writing but it’s never too late.
And as they say, it’s better to regret what you did instead of what you didn’t! But I’ll stay away from the pole dancing club…