It’s a new year, traditionally the time to start a new habit — usually a virtuous one, like giving up drinking alcohol or something else equally enjoyable that inevitably paves the path to a life of unimaginable ruin and moral decay.
January. A word that derives from the name of the two-faced Roman god Janus, protector of gates, doorways, portals, and thresholds: with one face looking forward to the future; the other looking behind, reflecting on the past.
To me, the dawn of 2023 feels like a big sigh of relief, a bright spring sunrise after a long season of turbulence. I very recently handed in the final assignment to a part-time two-year Master’s degree in Creative Writing undertaken with the University of Hull Online. I found it particularly tough during the last hurdle of that final big assignment to maintain a steady balance: one foot firmly wedged in the material world as a professional copyeditor of scientific texts; the other in a world of ethereal, gaseous daydreams and harnessing those down into words, or even a coherent narrative.
Composing an academic rationale for precisely why one’s been writing from the point of view (POV) of a Victorian ghost (among others) for nearly two years felt very much ‘make or break’.
Or perhaps… the sound of a distant but very definite SNAP.
It also felt a bit like taking your rubbish outside to the recycling bin. One day you might be one very, very short straw away from throwing that rubbish at unsuspecting passersby, running after them, screaming; the next, you’re carefully inspecting that garbage, meticulously dusting, and telling anyone who’ll listen the full backstory behind each bit. Then you realise, hidden in all that messiness, that there might just be some fresh strawberries.
Hang onto them.
🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓 🍓
Don’t give them to the pigs just yet.
They won’t want them until they’ve all flown past the window, doing a loop-the-loop aerial display anyway.
The results of the final taste test (i.e. assessment) are TBC.
Come what may, I am deeply grateful for:
- This course existing in a world where many may view fine-tuning such an activity as indulgent frivolity and therefore useless.
- The advice and feedback given by tutors and fellow writers.
- The spark ignited by the Professional Writing Academy’s Therapeutic and Reflective Writing Course.
- The words of my dear, late English Literature Batcherlor’s degree professor and polymath, Simon Edwards, spoken sometime in 2001 between his endless guffawings about my Chekhovian namesake, that I really should “try some creative writing to siphon off some of that wild and wilful energy” and “learn how to tame it.” I hope to have achieved the latter on this second time of being academically institutionalised for this love of words. Bless you, Simon, wherever you are.
- An employer of times long past, who said something along the lines of: “You’re a fairly capable editor. But I think you might be a writer.” Thank you, JB. However, I’ve since learnt that any abilities for copyediting, writing, proofreading, etc., aren’t necessarily innate gifts, or that a person is destined for solely one thing or t’other. They are all very different skills that need to be practised, again and again, and to earn some spurs you’ll make a few mistakes along the way. It’s how we learn and evolve: what seems to work, what doesn’t. Go back and try it again, but with a different approach. Experiment. Give yourself a break.
This quote by author Samuel Beckett says it best: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
- My husband and our three felines, for reminding me to live.