The one about Reading

I have just completed my first creative writing course – if you are in search for something not too long and engaging, I recommend The Original Writing Course by Maggie Hamand (in London only).

It’s short (6 weeks) and it’s not too expensive and the group is small enough (12-15) that you get your opportunities to contribute regularly. Anyway, this post is not really about the course  but more about a couple things that got highlighted for me.

I have discovered two important things on that course:

1. Everybody thinks their writing sucks,

2. Although I am avid reader, I am a lazy one!

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About point #1: it’s pretty much the first thing that Maggie tells you and she tells you that if she put a jar in the middle of the table at each of the classes and made people put a £1 every time they said that, she could retire easily already. Now, somehow, this is kind of reassuring. Then she makes you write a little exercise and read it out loud to the rest of the class…The first time you have to do that, you are petrified…by the end of the course, you volunteer happily to read what you have written as the feedback from both teacher and peers is invaluable and always supportive. No one will tell you that you suck (except maybe that little voice in your head)…they will point out what they like and what they may have done. It’s all very fulfilling and civilised. But I digress (I do that a lot, sorry).

This post is meant to be about point #2: I am a lazy reader.

In a previous post, I explained that I grew up and was educated in France. What I didn’t say was that I chose to do a literary orientated Baccalaureat (O’Level type). This means that whilst in high school, the focus of my classes was on Literature (and Languages). In France, unfortunately that meant French literature only…I studied Philosophy (Voltaire, Rousseau, Descartes, Sartre) and the French classics (Zola, Flaubert, Maupassant, Hugo, Baudelaire, Raimbault) and for most part, I have enjoyed it – although I have hated the part where you have to say what the author was trying to say and I really, really didn’t like Flaubert (sorry Mrs M). What I didn’t get to study and I feel is missing somehow in the curriculum are classics and popular authors from other countries – although I did have to do a Kafka (brrr….) when I was in 5th grade (that’s 2nd year of secondary school in France, so I was 13-14). I never read Jane Austen, Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Du Maurier, etc.

I could have done that of my own accord I give you that…but this is where I admit that I became a lazy reader…and also I think, I resisted so much the principle of being forced to read certain books at school and having to dissect them so they stopped being fun, that anything that I didn’t see as pure entertainment, I shied away from…and now here I am, nearly 40 years of age, I feel I am an under achieved reader and that maybe it will make me a poorer writer. So here is another thing for my 2014 bucket list: I must read a book from one of those authors listed above per month. That shouldn’t be too hard considering the amount of commuting I do every day, as long as I get it on the Kindle, I’ll be fine.

Now I need to decide which classic I need to start with…any suggestions (fyi: poetry is out, I really, really don’t have the mind for it)? I have a little over a month to decide and a couple books to finish until then.

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