ACW

ACW

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Writing Types and the Shame of Hidden Shredding


 
My writing self

Thirty years ago when I first started working, I decided that most teachers fall into two categories – bossy, organised types or dreamy, creative ones. I concluded quickly, and reluctantly, that I was the latter. It was a lonely moment. There aren’t many of us. Even today most colleagues are the sort who have shredders and put next day’s date on the board. If I had a few extra minutes at the end of the day, I’d be double mounting a leaf rubbing or writing a model calligram (or stuffing my shredding pile under the bookcase). When the Head brings the chair of governors round, I’m the one cross-legged in a patch of sunshine cutting out ladybirds. I quickly learned though, that those who are respected in teaching, as in most jobs, are those who are organised – they plan ahead, they meet deadlines, they keep their word. They’ve set their emails to read “Science Co-ordinator” or “Phase Leader” under their name so they, and others, know who they are.  
     
If there are teaching “types”, are there writing ones? Organised/creative? Planned/spontaneous? Down to earth/dreamy? I’m sure there are. Those who assiduously plan every detail before writing must be as common as those who launch gaily into prose, only stopping to check the odd fact when they have to. For me, the most terrifying thing of all is writing synopses. Why? Because they tie me down. Half the time I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen in my story. I might know the beginning and the end and how a character likes her hair done. But the best bits, or at least, the bits I’m proudest of, usually take me by surprise.

What about you? Do you plan? Do you think about your writing when you’re on Scrivener, or scribbling in your Writers Notebook, the one with quills on the cover? Or do you mull over the plot while drifting off to sleep or driving? (Warning: this can be dangerous, but fortunately that Lollipop Man has retired now.) Of course, the truth is most people are a combination of things. For many of us there is a work-self and a home-self, a face we show some people and a different one for others. Is this true of our writer-selves? Perhaps some of us are sharp and practical in real life but become dreamy romantics in our writing. I find I can be quite funny when I write. In real life I’m too self-conscious.

How can we hone our craft and be successful, without losing the essential flavour of who we are? Faith should make a difference, whatever we write. He who knit you together in your mother’s womb, has given you a means to touch the world you write about in a unique and assured way. But to showcase that gift, as in any job, we have to work at the things that don’t come naturally. And, as in any job, perhaps one of the best things the faith-filled can do, is to be organised – plan ahead, meet deadlines, keep your word. And be forgiving towards those who don’t.

Deborah Jenkins                                                                                                                     Mucked up but loved by God

My school self


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About the author

Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, devotional notes and short stories. She has recently completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel.. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, she now lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.


Click here to view Deborah's blog








10 comments:

  1. I'm sure being super-organised when writing has its place, but so does spontaneity. A bit like life, a salt-and-pepper approach can add variety. Like you, some of the best bits of writing came out of the blue - or perhaps not. We have another to guide us in our work.

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    1. Yes I think I agree Clare. You need a healthy bit of both. I just find it so interesting that when writers are being their "non-writer selves" they can often be so different in the way they operate. Just shows - God used a range of moulds for the "writer" :)

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  2. I've decided that, in writing, I'm an explorer. Not a well organised, plan-ahead explorer with map, compass and a change of socks. I'm the sort of explorer who wanders off into the jungle with a walking stick to pursue the rumour of a lost city.

    In real life, I'm nothing like that. In real life, I need a map to go anywhere I haven't been before. Map, satnav, map-app on my phone, directions, instructions and a contact number for emergencies. One reason why I'm not overly impressed with reality.

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    1. Perhaps you cope with reality by being more of a wanderer in your writing style, Paul? I suspect many of us write as a way of coping with reality one way or another. Great comment - thanks.

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  3. Really enjoyed this, Deborah. Having tried to be efficient and organised for most of my life, I'm finally learning to let my creative side loose. I love the image of you sitting on the floor cutting out ladybirds - it appeals to me as a parent (and as a governor!).

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    1. Oh I wish you were a governor at our school! Thank you Fiona :) Keep going wild!

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  4. The way I write is changing all the time, the more I do it. I'm hoping the changes are good ones! But generally I am a planner. I like to know where I'm going. Perhaps it's because, when I used to drive a car, a certain person who shall remain nameless used to yell 'Which lane are you in? Where are you going? You need to be in THAT one!' Now, if I don't know where I'm heading to in the story, I panic.

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    1. I think it's a personality thing though we can be a strange mix can't we? I would also say that you are quite a spontaneous person, which is unplanned isn't it? It's probably a good thing we're several things rolled into one. It makes life (and friendship) more interesting ;)

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  5. I love to live without contrasts or extremes: my novels are about this too, they are about living with 'both and' rather than 'either or'. I am both creative AND organised, I have sudden ideas AND I plan, I do not have either a favourite notebook/pen nor a great relationship with my computer ... that's just me, liking to live with options. And feeling trapped in any kind of category or definition! And probably why my first published novel makes a bid to say that there is no necessary divide between 'science/religion' and what there might be can be handled by warmth, affection, and understanding each other ...

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    1. Interesting. I think most people are like this really but perhaps don't have the perspicacity to admit it? We are all gloriously colourful pieces of patchwork aren't we? Thank goodness! Thanks for commenting Mari :)

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