The big lesson I learned teaching creative writing
Recently I was asked by a friend if I’d teach a corporate creative writing class for her employer. Teaching isn’t something I do. The thought of standing up in front of a room and speaking brought me out into a cold sweat but it was exactly that reason that made me say yes. Pushing myself out of my conform zone is something I like to try ever now and then. Besides, the art of crafting a story is something I’m super passionate about and I thought I’d enjoy sharing the things I have learned with new writers.
It made such a change to be out of the house, generally I’m at home writing. Every. Single. Day. It’s where I’m happiest though, in my tiny study, in my pyjamas, dreaming up worlds.
During the workshop I was asked where ideas come from.
‘They’re all around us if we keep our eyes open,’ I said. Leaving the house isn’t the only way to find ideas of course but I did mention that for me I found inspiration in getting out, living life. ‘If we never go anywhere or do anything, we might find we’ve nothing to say. Nothing to write about.’
As I said this I was mentally calculating when the last time was I went out and did something different.
I couldn’t remember.
I thought about what I might write next once I’ve finished my current book.
I had no idea.
And I was a little worried.
As my writing schedule has become busier I realise that lately I’ve been viewing life solely through my laptop and missing out on new experiences. The less I’ve been venturing out the more I’ve noticed my anxiety has also increased. It was time to make a change.
At home I relayed this to my husband and on the Saturday morning he told me to pack an overnight bag and after loading the dog in the car, we headed for the coast.
At first I was a little worried about leaving my current characters Libby and Jack behind. I’d left them in an awful situation, but promising them I’d sort it all out on Monday I put my story out of my mind and anchored myself to the present moment.
Everywhere I went sparked at idea. Walking along the beach in the bright sunshine, a potential love story for my next romance book. Taking Granger down to the deserted harbour at dusk, the perfect setting for a crime for one of my next thrillers. High up on the sand dunes, overlooking the beach huts, the glittering sea spread before me was, I thought, so romantic, a great spot for a proposal. (But those beach huts could well be hiding secrets). Walking away from the sand dunes, into the forest there was a small abandoned building.
My husband nudged me, ‘You could bury a body there and nobody would find it for months.’
In the crowded coffee shop, snippets of conversation, mannerisms of customers. A real opportunity to study people (in a non-creepy, non threatening way…)
I’ve come home refreshed and revitalised, not with a new plot, but with a new setting that every now and then I’ll bring to the forefront of my mind and add detail to, and by the time I’m ready to start a new novel it will be fully formed.
Already I am excited for it.
The feedback from my course was so positive and I’m pleased the participants got a lot out of it but I learned such a lot too. Making time to get out is perhaps, for me, the most important lesson of all.
Louise Jensen has sold over a million English language copies of her International No. 1 psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift, The Surrogate, The Date and The Family. Her novels have also been translated into twenty-five languages, as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List.
The Sister was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award. The Date was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize 2018. The Surrogate has been nominated for the best Polish thriller of 2018. The Gift has been optioned for a TV film.
Louise is also a hopeless romantic who explores the intricacies of relationships through writing heart-breaking, high-concept love stories under the pen name, Amelia Henley.
Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat. She loves to hear from readers and writers. http://www.louisejensen.co.uk
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