Everything can be learnt.
That is true, and it is not true.
When we meet at Renegades much of what we discuss are the technical issues in our writing. As we read aloud we can gauge, through the reactions of a fine group of people, whether we have made people laugh at the right (or wrong) place; made our points clearly or lost everyone in the mire; driven a plot in the right direction or sent people on a pointless journey, and so on and so forth.
These aspects of writing are things we can learn through attending the writing group, by reading books and blogs, attending workshops and courses. What is much harder is that unknown element which makes our writing not just words on a page but something memorable. I will call it spirituality; one could also call it genius, vision, any number of words – it is the unknown factor.
It sounds a bit ‘old hippie’, rather un-English, pseudy, or whatever term you wish. But it is there and something we talk about very little, perhaps because the intent behind our writing is quite deep within us and maybe we cannot always see it or express it ourselves, but the ability to tap that spirituality within our work raises the level of our writing; perhaps we are a bit embarrassed by what lies behind the page; embarrassed about our abilities much more than our lack of ability
In all art forms there are techniques to learn, some can take years to master, whole lifetimes, and artists (I use this term for writer, painter, photographer et al) are still trying to master them on the day they expire. Those who think they have mastered them are usually creating rubbish. That search cannot inhibit us but give us the reason to continue, we have to recognise where we have succeeded as much as where we haven’t, and work to develop that.
I have little or no formal writing training, unlike my visual art training. My highest level of examined English is a CSE. Like writing, 98% of drawing is a practical technical skill. There are ways of learning drawing skills through endless hours in life classes, analytical study, and learning how to handle a pencil, pen or whatever. The most important skill is learning to look, when drawing 85% of your time should be looking at what you are drawing. I remember one of my drawing tutors used to stand in front of students if she thought they were not looking at the model enough, waiting for the moment they looked up, to make her point. So what makes a piece of paper covered in well-executed lines and shading into a work of art? It isn’t just good technique, which can sometimes just look ‘dead’ like a Photoshop ‘drawing filtered’ photograph; it is an ability to see more than just what is on the page. The spirituality.
My writing skills have been developed through reading, attending workshops and participating in groups like Renegades, and importantly a considerable number of hours just writing. There are moments in my writing I have found something which has gone beyond the technique, I am sure we have all had those, when I think, ‘yes I have captured what I wanted onto the paper (or screen)’, and that may not be technically correct. But instinctively we know it is ‘right’.
Are we capable of discussing such matters in our group. They aren’t always easy in the environment, maybe it’s the sort of thing most of us prefer to discuss on a one-to-one basis. But they are issues equally as important as our grammar, point of view, dialogue. Maybe it’s something we need to look at.