Sunday, 24 March 2013

Creative Saturdays with Herbert

I'm a little sad this week. I've been taking a course at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry. Called 'Creating the Creative Writer', it ran for four Saturdays and was led by writing tutors Cathy Whittaker and Connie Ramsay Bott. I got so much out of this stimulating and challenging course, which was taught in a very friendly and supportive group. Last Saturday was the final session. I'm really going to miss those creative days. So, this weekend I am just reflecting on what I learned, and how I can use it to carry my writing forwards.

Why do I write? This was one question I had to answer during the course. Strangely, for someone who writes almost every day, I often struggle to identify the reasons. Writing has become such a big part of my life now that I just tend to carry on, regardless of rejections, hard years, illness or despair! Having to write about why I write pushed me to the conclusion that I do it for two main reasons.

1. To escape the world.

2. To observe the world more closely.

That may sound like a contradiction, but it makes sense to me. Writing lets you hold things up and examine them; explore situations and see what you think or feel about them. Add in the power of the imagination and, well, you really can go anywhere.

Each of the four Saturdays had a different focus, beginning with memoir, moving through fiction, poetry, and developing our writing via constructive feedback. We did lots of writing exercises, many using the Herbert's collections as inspiration. For example, we would be asked to find a character in a painting to write about, or a picture that sparked a memory from our earlier lives.

We also used the Herbert's temporary exhibition 'Caught in the Crossfire' to prompt ideas about conflict - a necessary element in fiction. Conflict is something I find hard to judge, especially if I am trying to write a gentler magazine story. Too much conflict - or too little? I don't think there is an easy solution to this, except more practice!

As if the Herbert didn't have enough thought provoking material in its exhibition, evidence of past conflict is very evident outside too. The remains of Coventry's ancient cathedral are right next door.
One thing I noticed during the course was how my motivation soared. I was tired, recovering from a persistent cold, and at work more days than I wanted to be. Yet I could not stop writing. One day, on the train home from Coventry, I wrote a poem about the passengers. During my lunchbreak at work, I wrote another about the view from the window. Writing seems to fuel itself, and the more I do it, the more I want to do it. Some days I think I don't have enough time, but the time is there really, if I just make myself start. That is the difficult bit.

There will be a further course of four Saturdays, 'Creating the Story Writer', at the Herbert in the summer, again led by Cathy and Connie. For details see the Herbert's website here. I would definitely recommend it if you are within reach of Coventry city centre.

For more about Cathy Whittaker and Connie Ramsay Bott, their website is here.

In case you're wondering about Herbert, go here....

And this is Ecce Homo by Jacob Epstein, in the cathedral ruins, just because I like it.

15 comments:

Old Kitty said...

I was totally wondering who Herbert was/is!! LOL!! Thank you for the link!!

So glad to read you were most inspired by the course held in this fabulous place! Writing poetry about one's fellow passengers during a commute is truly inspired!! Well done you! Take care
x

Teresa Ashby said...

The course sounds really good. I can never say for sure why I write, but I think you've given two excellent reasons.

Thank you for the links - I must admit I was wondering who Herbert was and now I know :-) And I can see why you like Ecce Homo :-) x

joanne fox said...

Old Kitty, some days my brain seems on the alert for ideas, and then I can find a story in the most unexpected places.

Teresa, I had a very inspiring time, and now have lots of pieces to work on further.

Wendy's Writing said...

Sadly I don't live anywhere near Coventry (I am in the South)as teh course sounds really good. In fact I don't think I've ever been to Coventry at all. It's great it motivated you to do so much writing.

joanne fox said...

Wendy, it's always worth looking out for anything locally. Even a one day workshop or an author talk can be such a boost when morale is flagging.

Dream it, then do it said...

Thanks for the pictures, Joanne. I haven't been to Coventry since the sixties.

joanne fox said...

Hi Keith. I think there may have been one or two changes since then!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely post, Joanne, and I totally get your enthusiasm for this (I'm just back from an inspiring conference). Love your reasons for writing.

joanne fox said...

Rosemary, isn't it great to spend time with people who share the writing obsession. A tonic.

Kate Jackson said...

What a wonderful course, Jo. So inspiring and creative. Plus being next door to the cathedral which looks amazing - so glad it wasn't bulldozed after it was bombed. Writing's like a muscle - the more you do it the stronger it gets.

joanne fox said...

Kate, that's a very good point about keeping your writing muscles strong! Thanks. x

Joanna said...

I love Ecce Homo, Joanne. And many thanks form the link.
This is an inspiring post. I agree with your reasons for writing. It isn't something I had thought about before. It has come to feel the same as breathing and sleeping and eating.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the course and that it encouraged lots of writing, especially on the train. That must be a perfect place to write - public enough for material and private enough to concentrate on your own thoughts. Solo train travel is wonderful for being among people, yet alone.

Beauitful pictures too, especially the ruined cathedral church. Thank you so much. x

joanne fox said...

Joanna, I always hope to get a story or something from a train journey. It's just a shame trains are quite expensive, otherwise I could happily just go up and down the same line all day. It's good to write anywhere that's different from your usual place, and see what ideas pop up.

unikorna said...

OMG such incredible architecture....I would loveeeeeeeeee to see it.

joanne fox said...

Unikorna, the photos don't really give a full impression of the scale. The original building would have been huge. Maybe you will see it for yourself one day! Thanks for visiting the blog.