Friday, August 26, 2011

Writing - A job or a hobby?

Hobby: leisure activity or pastime engaged in for interest or recreation.

Job:to carry on public business for private gain/remuneration

I once posed the question at a creative writing workshop.

Should writing be considered a hobby or a job?

The response was unequivocal.
There is no chance that writing can be a hobby.
To achieve anything worthwhile, writing must be treated with the same discipline as a job.

What then for those who (a) want to achieve something worthwhile, but who can't ascribe the word 'job' to writing, because what we produce doesn't pay enough, and/or we don't give it enough priority or time to call it our 'job'
and (b) want to have a hobby that engages, relaxes and transports us away from the humdrum of our daily lives?

What category do those of us in that twilight zone fall?

Maybe the answer is that for some of us, writing is both a hobby and a job. Writing does not produce enough to feed my family but yet it's something I treat, as much as possible, as a muscle that must be exercised. It might not be truly relaxing enough to be termed a hobby and not profitable enough to be termed a job, but it is something I keep going back to, no matter what.

It occurs to me that because merged words are everywhere these days from "Sceptimist" - a sceptic and optimist, to "Jeggings" - jeans and leggings (or even "Jedward" - John and Edward Grimes)that "Jobby" might fit as a word to describe those of us in the twilight zone.

Is writing your hobby or your job?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A disconnected Holiday

What happens when nature overcomes technology and you end up without a signal for a week, either radio or mobile phone,

compliments of the obstructive overhang of moody mountains?

Without the bleep of text or the distraction of internet and radio, you gain oodles of time.

To stare at the scenery, especially the exquisitely coiffed locals.

And ponder what might be in store for them.

Take bad photos with more of yourself in them than the fantastic scenery you were aiming for.

Admire the creatively named, garbage disposal outlets.


Or soak yourself in Ann Enright's novel of the inevitable upshot of an illicit affair and all the sensuous detail of what happens in between. The Forgotten Waltz blended perfectly with Connemara's broody, shadowy, hills, water and mist.

Even the onslaught of traffic,on Friday 19th August, heralding the arrival in Delphi of hundreds of frighteningly fit cyclists for the Gaelforce race,did not cause a blimp of stress after a signal-free week.

Maybe it's good to be disconnected for a while.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Francine Prose and Writing Workshops

Favourite bits:

On editing your own work: "Writers need to ask themselves -is this the best word I can find? Can a word or phrase be cut without sacrificing anything essential?"

On dialogue: "Our characters should speak with greater economy and certitude than we do. Unlike us, they should say what they mean and get to the point."

On details: "God is in the detail....detail reassures the reader that the writer is in control and isn't putting us on."
Prose quotes from Kafka's "Metamorphosis" -
"He was lying on his hard, as it were, armor-plated back...his numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk."

The meticulously described image of the shape of the insect convinces us Gregor Samsa has turned into a beetle.

In particular, Prose's thoughts on writing workshops grabbed my attention.

"It's learning to write by committee which is insanity." Prose singles out the MFA Creative writing programme for mention: "If you're going to spend 2 years and $80,000, I'd think a million times before doing it." Her main beef with workshops and writing courses is that you are following a tutor's lead in how to write and capitulating to the views of participants. Writing is a solitary activity. Producing words to suit the tastes of a group is "actually quite dangerous" says Prose.

For me, the most enjoyable bit about attending the writing course or workshop is the social aspect, the meeting of like-minded people, something Prose acknowledges and describes as "invaluable". Writing workshops are fun and I've thoroughly enjoyed any I have done. But do I learn anything other than attaching the seat of the chair to my backside is the way to write?

I think not.

What are your thoughts on writing workshops or courses?