My husband and I are gearing up for the new school year. Class lists. Timetables. New stationery. Sharp pencils. Training days. And as we do this, I realise that writers too need a sense of structure. There is a danger that those of us who work creatively, allow one day to float into the next, to watch seasons go by without noticing the transitions, to let years pass without a sense of renewal and starting again and going back to the beginning. And yet we need those things, they are healthy, they help us to remember how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go and what we might have forgotten along the way.
And so I’m imposing a bit of a ‘back to school’ feeling to my writing routines. I’m making a timetable for myself so that I don’t lose the discipline I had last year, I’m tidying my desk and sorting out my files and creating my own class lists (those faithful characters that I’m working on in my current fiction). Perhaps most important of all, I’m giving myself some training by reading a few good books on the bread and butter of writing. I have been writing full time for over a year now, crafting characters, plotting, weaving together fictional worlds and yet I know that I need to take the occasional refresher course so that I don’t become complacent. I’m reading the wonderful Monkeys at Typewriters by Scarlett Thomas, one of those rare writing books that is clear and simple in its delivery but complex and intelligent in its teaching. In the chapter of character, she makes us look at Stanislavsky, in the chapter on plotting, she reminds us about what Aristotle had to say about complications, set-backs and resolutions. She takes us to Plato’s cave and then reminds us what it means to write a good sentence. This is my form of CPD (what teachers call Continual Professional Development) and I’m both remembering and learning a great deal.
And so, today, as I prepare to tutor and teach, I also prepare for my new writing term.