In the archives
I was looking back through my blog entries from before the beginning of TheSupercargo. In the six months or so before I launched the website, I kept a writing diary. It covered the period from June or July to December 2008. I always intended to post it online – and I did so once the website was running – but then I was forced to take it all down again when the web hotel I originally chose turned out to be less than reliable. When I moved the site to its present home (at Binero, with whom I am still very satisfied) I did republish some of the entries (here is the first), but most I just kept on a hard disk. It’s those entries I’ve been looking at again.
There’s a lot of optimism there at the beginning, but it drains away rather as the year progresses. Partly it’s my SADness growing as the days shorten, but mostly it’s other things. (The struggles with the web hotel, for instance, were draining on my time as well as my energy.)
The reason I was revisiting my archives was the intensive creative writing course I took last weekend. Preparing for that, I went through a lot of my old material looking for things I might share in the class. One file led to another, and before I knew it I was back in 2008. In the end I chose four pieces of writing to share including some poems from 50/50-ish and the first five pages of Elin’s Story. Both these I’ve been working on for 10 years, and neither are complete. But it was interesting to revisit the words I wrote back when I thought writing a novel would be dead easy. Just write 500 words a day for a hundred days and there it would be.
Well, that didn’t work then. Perhaps it will work now.
At the end of last year, I think even before we’d left Brussels, a friend sent me a link to the Stockholm Writers’ Festival and asked if I might be going. I read the blurb (Find Your Path to Published) and hummed and hawed, but eventually I paid my entry fee and wrote back to say, Yes, and Can I sleep over at your place?
All well and good. Then the SWF wrote to remind me they were running in tandem with the First Five Pages competition, and would I like to send in my first five pages? Obviously this was going to have to be Elin’s Story, so I looked out the most complete version of the various starts I’ve made over the years. This one is called The Long Way to London and I read it through. It looked okay.
But I don’t trust myself to judge my own work (and, sad to say, I don’t trust the judgement of anyone who loves me either). I decided that I needed some input, but where from? Online, I looked to see if I could find any English-language creative writing courses being offered anywhere near me.
I was in luck. Folkuniversitet (FU) in Gothenburg was advertising a weekend course, so I signed up.
New friends and old
It turned out to be a good move. I didn’t meet any of my coursemates until the first day, so it was a bit of a surprise to find no Swedes in the room but a range of mother tongues from Turkish via Greek to Dutch and English. A good range of experiences also. (I wave a greeting to Manos, Lize, Sezgi and Adnan.) The latter two had come all the way from Copenhagen, which suggests there’s no creative writing in English available in Scandinavia’s largest city. Surprisingly.
An even bigger surprise was when the last participant walked in and turned out to be my old friend Martin. I’ve known Martin since 1987 when we worked together at the old British Centre in Gothenburg.
So the participants on this creative writing course were a heterogeneous mix, but Jessica Hovey, the course leader (poet, essayist, editor of novels and short stories), was able to adapt to our range of interests and abilities.
Jessica also read through my five pages and recommended a number of concrete changes and tightening up which I applied. The result was good and I finally sent the text off yesterday, as I write. Jessica’s course, as much as my archive diving, gives me the impetus to start-up this writing diary again. I aim to post once a month (or more frequently perhaps) for the next three months and then see where it’s taken me.
My hope is, if I know I am supposed to be writing something on a regular basis, that I will keep up my efforts to write regularly in order to have something to report here. I’m aware that I’ve tried this before and it hasn’t worked – but, let’s draw a curtain over past failures. Instead, in the words of Sezgi one of my creative writing coursemates who wrote the poem from which the title of this article is borrowed, I’ll start afresh.