‘A Fistful of Feathers’ author, Linda Jones, shares her thoughts with TWH on how far she’s come on her writing ‘journey’. There’s no wonder a lot’s made of having confidence in your writing; so many new authors fear sharing their work – of putting themselves ‘out there’. Linda found much-needed support when she joined a local writing group…find out just how much effect it had on her:
“I cringe whenever I cast my mind back nine years to my early attempts at writing. Far too much detail, crazy grammar (did I never listen in school?!) and exorbitant word counts… But I don’t regret a thing. Hidden somewhere in the cluttered memory of my computer is the beginning of my writing ‘apprenticeship’. Hours of work and hundreds of pages, all of which I poured heart and mind into. I tapped away, escaping the daily grind and pain, and without even noticing, I slowly learned the art of storytelling.
And I read. I consumed novels until my eyes ached. I tried every genre, many different authors, desperately searching for the ‘right way’ to write. I read ‘how to’ books, of course, but gave up before I reached halfway – that’s just not the way I learn.
Why didn’t I seek out a group or help sooner? Feeling ill had a lot to do with it, as did finding a group that a) didn’t cost much (I’d had to leave my job because of my ill-health), and b) was easy to get to.
I couldn’t get rid of the little voice chipping away at my confidence, telling me how rubbish I was. As for sending my work off to be critiqued, that was way beyond my means.
In 2012, I heard of a small writing group that was starting up in Doncaster, led by the wonderful Ray Hearne. It was free to attend, met just once a month, and it was on an evening, which was perfect because I’d have the car. No trips on buses or trains where I was at risk of picking up yet more infections. I began to believe: I could survive this…
It’s hard to describe the impact those meetings had – and still have (just because my first novel has been picked up by a Yorkshire-based independent, it certainly doesn’t mean I can stop learning!). The group instilled in all of us the freedom to write. This may sound exactly what you’d expect from a writers’ group, but it’s not always the case, unfortunately. It was incredibly freeing to simply and effortlessly pour our thoughts onto paper, without having to shoehorn them into structured themes, or having to endure compulsory writing exercises, or having uninspiring homework enforced upon us – all in the name of ‘creative writing’. It happens.
Throughout the previous two years I’d been stuck in a room, tapping away, trying to write my novel, with no real idea of whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. There I was, with a bunch of poets, song and prose writers, even another children’s author, who were all buzzing with creativity. No one judged – everyone was just focused on improving.
I left my prose for a while and dived in, head first. I vividly recall reading my very first piece to the group. I felt positively sick. But, eighteen months later, I’d turned that rough poem into a fifteen-minute play and subsequent performance.
How could I not improve, surrounded by so many talented people? And the poetry… I may never be the greatest poet but I have come to appreciate the sheer beauty of words. And, surprisingly, poetry has changed the way I write prose. It’s become sharper, edgier, and (thankfully, says my publisher) definitely shorter.
On that note, I’ll leave you. But not before I reiterate how much better my writing became after I surrounded myself with fellow creatives and inspirational lovers of language. Because no man – or author – is an island.