You know what? I am completely loving being a mature age student. The sort that reads all the lecture notes and the recommended reading as well as the required stuff. The sort that sticks up their hand in lectures.
I love it.
I think it’s because I recognise this as a luxury. This is something I saved up for – a chance to commit time and money to learning, reading and thinking. A commitment to creating.
Part of me is scared it is all a waste of time. Part of me doesn’t care. This is living life with my priorities front and centre. I can live with the background hum of ‘Gosh that’s selfish’.
One of the biggest luxuries in this course is being able to hear writers talk about their craft. Today we heard from Anthony Eaton, who’s had 11 books published and is just finishing a twelfth. He’s an honest-to-goodness Australian writer, who has been able to support himself through his writing. That is a very encouraging thought. He talked about getting his first novel published, and how he supports himself. He also showed us some journals from his trip to Antarctica – that was amazing.
Anthony has a PhD, so he loves his research. And his writing-journals had maps, paintings, sketches, time lines… and a chapter by chapter outline of the book he hadn’t started writing yet. I thought the journals were works of art by themselves. It was awesome to have a writer so generously show us the nuts and bolts of their craft.
Last week I mentioned Stephen King’s book On Writing. In it, King outlines his method of creation, which imagining a situation, populating it with characters and then writing to see where it goes. It sounded like the complete opposite of what Anthony tries to do. But then, who said there was ever a correct way to create?
I’m taking away two things from this class. The first is just to get the manuscript done – it doesn’t matter how rough, or overwritten or clumsy as long as it’s finished. Once you’ve got a shitty first draft, you have something to work with.
The second is that a writer’s notebook can be many different things. When I think of journals, I think of Anais Nin or someone like Helen Garner, who basically admitted writing about her friends from her diaries. But Anthony’s journals were something else entirely. More akin to an Artists diary, it was a document of the development of a creative idea. Anthony said it took him nearly two years to find a way of journaling that worked for him. That makes me feel quite a lot better about my own neglected journals.