Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Creative Writing Courses: help or hindrance?

Can we be taught to write? Or is it creative urge that rules, OK?

This has come up a couple of times in the past week so I thought I'd set down a few thoughts.

First the craft of writing

Does that have to be learned? I'd give a very firm yes to that. And the only way to learn is to do it.

Last week I was talking to a leading writer in the UK in the mind, body, spirit genre of books. His writing was learned in the hard school of being critiqued on a daily basis by journalists and advertising copywriters. That meant he'd developed skills he could turn to any kind of writing he needed to do. Including several successful novels.

His take on inspiration was that for him, he wanted to write books that came out of experience. Not theories that hadn't been tested but had become robust through practical application.

Second: what surrounds you as a writer

In Saturday's Guardian Review is an article by Rachel Cusk on creative writing courses. Their use or otherwise.

There were three points I think need stressing::

  1. The importance of talking about yourself as a writer, even if you are still working at another job.
  2. The vital necessity of support from people who are focused on you succeeding as a writer.
  3. The need to learn the craft of writing.

You can check out the article here:


I know just being in the same room as other writers is good for me, whatever level they are. There's always something to learn.

Have you taken a creative writing course? If so how helpful was it to you?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Writing blocks: do they exist?

This came up as a question on Writing From Your Heart 12 Facebook page. www.facebook.com/writingfromyourheart

I said firmly that I didn't believe in writing blocks and I stand by that as far as it relates to the mechanics of writing. Because in terms of words on a page, there are many techniques to be used that allow you write.

Sounds harsh? Maybe but let me take you back ten years.

In my hand I held an envelope containing an assignment I'd sent off to my writing correspondence course.
I was quite pleased with it when I sent it off but by the time I'd read the comments on the accompanying sheet, I felt shredded.

Too many pages, too much waffle, not enough emotional content. It was 12 pages and my next assignment was to reduce it down to 8.

More inclined to make paper airplanes with it than look at it again, I left it for a couple of days.

Didn't look any easier to me to start changing words, or horror of horrors, deleting them.

Of course I did it. And of course my tutor was right. The reduced piece was sharper, firmer and more directed at the reader.


Where I can agree to blocks is in the emotional connection to the words you might want to write. But that's a different issue

These can happen at different stages of the writing process and need a different kind of therapy to loosen them.

  1. It may feel too emotionally charged to write about something, not allowing you to begin.
  2. While you're writing painful emotions can come upand feel threatening to you.
  3. When you've finished the writing, even if it's been therapeutic to write it, you may feel blocked about doing anything with what you've written.


After I'd answered the Facebook question I mulled over the question further and thought it might be useful to discuss it with Tom Evans, The Bookwright who has written extensively about creativity blocks.

Our discussion will go out to subscribers of WFYH Monthly Enfolding on 1 February.

Sign up at www.eileenparr.com and join in the discussion about this topic that haunts most writers at some point in their writing life.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Richard Rodney Bennett

His death on Christmas Eve saddens me. I had the privilege of seeing him three times.

Once in the 1970s when he accompanied a singer whose name sadly I have forgotten. I do remember she sang a Berio piece that sounded like a radio being tuned between stations. Him I remember as elegant, cultured and amusing. As well as being a wonderful pianist.

Closer to his death I saw him twice with Claire Martin and what sheer pleasure they were to watch and listen to. So matched were they in their love of the songs they offered and so obviously great friends.

I heard his music many times on the radio and like other polymaths, his range of abilities across the musical genres maybe played against him being taken as seriously as he should have been as composer. He made it seem easy and that most important of abilities not possessed by all artists.

Accessible. His attitude was, come and share my love of this. And if we had any sense we did.

Sad to think I won't hear him again live because it was such a joy.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas wishes from Eileen Parr

It's 5am on Christmas morning. I'm not awake because I want to see if Santa has visited but I am awake before the rest of the family.

So I'm taking a few minutes to be grateful before we launch into a day of feasting and presents.

The first thing I'm grateful for is a history of happy childhood Christmases. I was surrounded by those who loved me and early in my life, encouraged to be part of the world of books and writing. Annuals and Enid Blyton books sitting at the foot of the bed to give my parents chance to sleep longer!

That love of books has been at the core of my life and I hope will remain so and I've seen it passed on to my nieces and now great niece. Many of the presents surrounding the tree downstairs are books.

And I'm grateful that as a family we emphasise creating experiences rather than merely acquiring stuff. My great niece did a rough count of the presents and we were amazed at how many. If it sounds as if we've spent a fortune, we haven't. Limits on spending turn us creative about what we ask for and buy for the others.

My sister spent some time last week, doing a trawl round the charity shops looking for books for one of my nieces. She came back in triumph having succeeded in finding some authors she wanted to pass on.

This year I'm especially grateful that I'm building connections across the world with those whose love of words leads them to help others with their knowledge, skills and passion.

My love of books and words and the pleasure and connections it's brought me over my life so far is beyond any economic value I can assign to it.

Instead it's opened up worlds for me beyond anything I might have imagined in childhood.

On this Christmas morning, I hope that there's something, whether books or not, that opens your life out in the same way.

All blessings.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Will you be a leader in 2013?

I have to put my hand up and admit I've always been bossy.

There I've said it.. and the world hasn't fallen in on me.

Except that being bossy backfired on me more times than enough in my twenties and thirties and so I started moving in the opposite direction... not being bossy.

Which was fine except I began to realise that in some company, I seemed to come out all wimpish.

Are you the one who's the centre of attention or hovering on the edge of the group?

Recently I went to our local theatre, amateur companies only, to watch a performance of Round and Round the Garden, one of Alan Ayckbourn's Norman Conquest Trilogy. In that is a very bossy woman who tries to organise everyone else. She fails of course because most of us resist being organised, even if secretly we'd like someone to take charge of all the things we hate to do.

So what is leadership anyway?

My trusty dictionary tells me that a leader is:

  • a person who leads, commands or precedes a group, organisation or country
Being out in front means high visibility, commanding has too many nuances of being bossy, but maybe precedes might work.

When I look at the verb what I find is much more to my liking:
  • cause a person to go with one by drawing them along
  • show a person the way by preceding or accompanying them
Recently I went to a TEDx on family and community and a young woman talked about leading by serving others.

Then I found a definition that said a leader was someone who had the courage to go first. Unlike the character in Gilbert and Sullivan The Gondoliers who led always from the rear.

How cand you and I be leaders next year?

During the Writing From Your Heart Online Gathering, I received some wonderful feedback. Much of it focused on the same points.

How the writer appreciated the practical nature of the interviews and how touched they were by the courage I was showing by being vulnerable.

Was it deliberate on my part? To a certain extent it was... because I knew that if I wasn't authentic then I might as well not bother to host the event. I am as I am, with all my insecurities and hang ups. And my talents and strengths. 

All of which I have to admit to.

What does 2013 hold for us?

Let's face it. We have no real idea. We make plans, we vision, we dream, we hope. But we have no real idea what will turn up from one moment to the next.

Whether positive or not, we will be surprised by the year. We'll take some decisions with clear sight and others more hoping for a good outcome.

What I'm challenging myself on for 2013 is becoming the leader I need to be. And I think it's important because I have a role to play in the greater scheme of things. 

Whatever the size of my dreams, whatever scope I'm envisaging, I will have to take the steps out in front... before I can expect anyone to follow me. Whether it's to be part of my community or as a helper to create that community.

So how about you?

What will you be the leader for in the next year?

I'd love to hear about your visions and your thoughts about leadership.

Let me know and if you're not already signed up for my Monthly Enfolding join our community

Monday, 12 November 2012

Lynn Serafinn on 5 fears of writing and marketing

Wednesday 14th November 7pm I'm lucky enough to have captured Lynn Serafinn and pinned her down for an hour. She's having a whirlwind year with the success of her book, The 7 Graces of Marketing and her Global Conference that followed it up earlier this year.

Lynn Serafinn is nothing short of a phenomenon: author, radio host, marketing and social media expert.

Not only that, she's holding a global vision for the way we do business. Her indepth analysis of what's wrong with the way we sell now and plan to change it, could revolutionise the way you do business.

Sign up here:
 Listen to Lynn Serafinn live or on replay