Salisbury Writers’ Festival 2009 #2
Tom Keneally (Schindler’s Ark) was the keynote speaker on the morning I attended this year’s Salisbury Writers’ Festival. He was to speak on the topic ‘Telling a good story’ but like a many storytellers he meandered all over the place, colouring his address with some wonderful anecdotes about the writer’s life and in particular his own life as a writer.
Tom spoke briefly about writing classes. It sounded like he is not all that keen about writers attending such classes even though he has taught some of them himself over the years. He said that you don’t have to attend writing classes to be a writer. His main emphasis was on the importance of writing every day. Regular writing, he maintained, was the key to becoming a good writer. While I agree with him on this latter point, I still feel that attending writing classes can be very useful.
Before I commenced my studies for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing I was a disciplined writer keen to be successful. I was writing every day sometimes 4 to 5 hours daily. I had written over a million words-give or take a few tens of thousands-and had some publishing success. My studies, however, have taken my writing to a whole new level of competence.
In workshops I have had to present drafts of my writing on a regular basis. I received immediate feedback and critical analysis from both lecturers and fellow students. One quickly learns the craft of writing when your writing is constantly under scrutiny in this way. At first it was confronting, sure, but as the months rolled by I learned to welcome these critiques-provided they were honest and constructive. And all the time I could see the quality of my writing improve far beyond what I had been able to achieve previously. The quantity of my writing also improved-an added bonus.
While it may not be for everyone, I would encourage all writers-and especially beginning writers-to seek out a writing class or critique group near where they live.