If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, you’ll probably recognise some of these characters:
The Undiscovered Genius
Andrew is Hemingway reincarnate. He feels it deep in his troubled soul. His new build one bed flat is a homage to 1920s Paris. He starts every piece he writes with a drink and works into the night, making sure he hones the pallor of a struggling artist: dehydrated, and starved of sun and sleep. At weekends he sits in a local cafe writing by hand about impotency. His writing class are far too bourgeois to understand him. They haven’t even heard of Gertrude Stein. After class, Andrew sits in the corner of the pub, wearing a cable knit jumper, drinking whiskey and challenging anyone who comes near him to arm wrestle. By day he’s a chartered accountant.
The ‘I’m Too Busy’ Writer
Iris joined this class to give herself a deadline each week to write to. But she’s always so busy; she just hasn’t had the time to type. She’s had to do so many things. You know, all those things that just have to be done. Next week she will definitely write. Next week will be different. (It isn’t).
The Grey Haired Lady
Marjorie has been coming to this writing group for six years. Each week she travels up to town in her knitted cardigan and sits in the same seat. When the youngsters go out for a cigarette, she eats the ham salad sandwich she’s packed. Now they insist you type all your work, she’s had to dig out her typewriter. She spends an hour before class randomly pressing buttons on the photocopier to coax it into life. She finds something positive to say about everyone’s writing, and always lets someone else read first. Now she comes to think of it, it’s been years since she actually read anything. The teacher and the other students are mildly patronising to her, but they don’t mean any harm. When she finally reads, Marjorie recites a tender homosexual sex scene from her second novel. Everyone is speechless.
Jim is a writing god. His command of the English language is unsurpassable. He knows how to use an Oxford comma and he’s not afraid to tell you. He doesn’t need any criticism, idiots. He came to this group so you could appreciate his literary magnificence, idiots. Only a fool would question his loose sentence structure, indecipherable prose or complete lack of plot. Jim could teach this class better than that idiot teacher. He could give Hilary Mantel a run for her money, idiot. Huh! He could give Proust a run for his money, idiot. (Idiot).
Jane really enjoyed creative writing as a child. She’s been meaning to start again for years. At school the lovely Mrs Brownlee, her old English teacher, always said she had natural talent. There are bound to be one or two good writers in this class of thirty, but Jane’s quietly confident she’ll be in the top ten at least. She visibly shrinks as one after another incredibly talented, hardworking writers who’ve been at it for years, read. She shoves her piece back in her bag. She has a lot of work to do.
Louise is a sub on a national newspaper. She hates telling her writing group what her day job is because they get overexcited. ‘A paid writer! How amazing! How wonderful!’ Louise knows she spellchecks for a living, but she dreams of writing the last great Fleet Street novel. After years of generating copy in high-pressured, professional environments, her daily word count is staggering. She can’t understand why everyone struggles to layout a simple page. How hard is it to double space? And what’s with all these gaps between the paragraphs? She out drinks everyone else in the pub after class, and goes home to dream of the Pulitzer.
The Sci-Fi Geek
Geoff works in IT. He often breaks off during his reading to explain the finer points of Artificial Intelligence. He spends every night, weekend and holiday writing, because his created world is much better than this one. He only leaves the house to attend his writing group; the rest of his social life is online. If you refer to sci-fi as genre fiction he’ll quote Orwell and Huxley at you. His classmates take the piss out of him and his glasses, which are stuck together with sticking plaster. He lands a six-figure three-book deal and celebrates by buying voice recognition software.
The Writing Mum
Anna gets up at 6am to wake the kids. Then it’s; breakfasts, washes, hair combing, teeth brushing, bags packed, coats on, and off to school. Back at home she puts on the washing, strips the bed, makes soup for supper, before going to the shops for supplies. Just after 11 she sits down to write. At 11.30 the phone rings: one of the kids has forgotten their lunch. She gets in the car drives to school, delivers the lunch, drives home, just in time to take another call: one of the kids is sick. The evenings are swallowed in a whirlwind of homework, dinner, costumes to be made for the school play, story telling, teeth brushing, refereeing fights, baths and pyjamas. At 9pm she collapses into bed. During the half hour she managed to write, Anna will have produced far more quality words than anyone else did in a week.