I was in a scholarly debate with a scholastic peer t’other day. We were talking about what my final piece was going to be about for the Masters. As I rolled through the many varied thoughts and ideas, it dawned on me that whilst not actually knowing what plans I had for the fifteen-thousand-word assignment, I also had very little idea as to how the forthcoming book was going to be written. Obviously, I know how it’s going to be written, but in terms of the structure, I don’t have the foggiest. I then decided that, because of the talk, it was time that I not only write more frequently, and not only write deeper and/or longer entries, but that I should focus more on Paris. As my mind always strives for the creative perfection, I realised that I also need to include more about the actual Masters and, quite literally, how I am mastering it.
I am currently on my fourth assignment out of six that will be marked by my tutor. The last one was my insight on how Hemingway has influenced my own writings. This one is another piece of creative nonfiction (which I need to quickly proofread, edit, tweak a little more and then decide it’s good enough to hand in) as well as a letter and synopsis to an agent, editor or publisher. These additional bits are in theory fictional but who knows, I may end up using them in later life. Especially as I’ve just finished researching the perfect person to send it all off to. I would obviously expect the realistic rejections to include a lack of rejection letter. And that’s all fine. I can’t expect everybody – or maybe that should be anybody – to enjoy my work and see the potential for mass exposure. But that is honestly all part of who I am. I’m not writing to become famous. I’m writing for my own benefit, for my own piece of mind and my own catalogue. In many years time, when I get everything straight in my life, I’ll be able to sit and write numerous volumes of this book. Or other books. Even short compilations to fit in books. And maybe not just nonfiction journals but poems or scripts as well as the many fictitious stories that constantly rest in my mind. I’m in no rush. It will all come when the time is right and there are two chairs in my reading room.
I carry five fountain pens with me and this notebook. They are strapped in with a holster-type elasticated holster that sits around the front cover of the now redundant Filofax Flex range. This particular one is of the A5 variety whereby I also have their slim and pocket versions. If you want to know more about the versatility of them, well, Google them. Or yet, we can all campaign Filofax to reinstate them. They are truly amazing bits of kit for a writer as well as maybe a taker of notes or a drawer of sketches.
My journey through to my final few assignments this academic year has been quite an adventure. I don’t know if I’m doing it properly, but by using this blue Ted Baker notebook and my Freewrite Traveler, I’ve been able to keep a fairly constant flow of writing going. This has been helpful as it means that I can write the assignments in advance, use them and simultaneously have not only entries for the blog but also for the book. Again, this is in principle as I am still not only unsure of the book’s content and direction but also still heavily debating the final assignment which will be marked by an unknown presence. I’m still only after a qualifying pass mark. My studies will continue long after the academic learnings have completed. My hopes of becoming a secondary school teacher were destroyed by my bachelor’s degree result. With the poor score under my belt, I had no choice but to refuse to take a fifty percent pay cut for training in order to get the required teaching qualifications – I enjoy having a roof above my head and food in my belly. And that’s fine. As I said at the beginning of this Masters, I’m here literally to learn. Before, I attempted to get a high enough result to be able to pursue the dream of teaching. It didn’t happen due to real life issues that crop up when living a real life. So instead of getting down and beating myself up, I took the intellectual path and decided to bury my head in something else rather than face up to losing my dream.
That’s why I chose to study. To learn more; to advance my understanding of what it is that makes creative nonfiction good. Being able to tell a story is all well and good but apparently you need to be able to tell it in a set number of words – with a 10% leniency. And within this story telling, you also need to be able to show a certain level of understanding of what you have recently been made to learn. In short, your own style must fall by the wayside in order to allow your academically taught methodology to bubble to the surface, within a target word count. Oh, and by a certain time.
I don’t like my creativity to be dragged out or to have confinements and restrictions placed up on it. If I choose to write a certain way, it’s because that’s the way I’m writing. If I choose to not use metaphors, then I won’t. If I decide to ramble on about random irrelevances, then it’s down to me. I honestly don’t see why, after studying other people’s work and being told how to be different, we need to stick to the tick-box principles. I do like to have a thread through my work and similarly, bring it to a close with a reference that relates back to an earlier mentioned focal point, but, honestly, that’s how I enjoy writing. And whether it’s a big or a subtle nod to a previous topic is down to me and me alone. It’s all part of my story telling. And it is this story telling (not just the number of times I can rebelliously use the word “and” at the beginning of a sentence) which is enabling me to chase the new dream. Getting my second book out there. I’m also aiming at maintaining, improving and perfecting my writing skills in order to not only start but more importantly finish many more books in the future, just as I said before.
Sitting down and writing is a past time I enjoy. Which is lucky considering the area of my Masters. But how about telling what studying has really been like? For my bachelor’s, it wasn’t too bad. Yes, relationships changed, living arrangements altered, employment was left and a totally different and alien field was entered. This meant that shift patterns took a turn and as a result the physical studying had to change its routine and my physical locations of study had to be adapted with all the alterations that took place in my life. So much for the fourteen-word sentence I had been taught about. Six years is a relative short term in my life and yet so much happened in that period. It had been less than a year after my stroke that I took up studying with the Open University. I had two young boys and was working as a parking attendant in the City of London. The early morning shifts meant I had plenty of time to study in the evening. However, I had a wage cut thrrrrrust upon me. I gained a promotion to try and alleviate the financial damage that was taking its toll on my already depleted resources. It certainly didn’t help to remove any mental unease. The salary didn’t meet the salary before the cut and the hours affected my relationship adversely. The only good thing to come out of it was more time with my boys and my study time in the office. And Costa Coffee in City Point. Needless to say, the relationship broke down, I moved out and ended back home. A long and emotional story cut down for the sake of this entry and I get myself a new job and the study continued as new relationships began. And with that episode of my life came its own issues and stories. My voluntary and non-voluntary sacrifices took their toll on my grades. I was simply looking for a pass by the end of the course. I managed this and whilst the family were pleased for me, not everything was the proverbial bed of roses. Nevertheless, I survived and began the Masters. The actual study became more intense, less tutor-led and also, because of real life, it started to wane. Motivation was met with procrastination. The inertia of my mind was greeted with the onslaught of the pandemic of 2020. For me, in many ways, this was a bad time. A lot happened and my mental well-being, let alone my physical health, suffered a huge amount of damage. On the plus side of the world being thrown into pandemonium, it meant my final piece for my first year didn’t have to be handed in. Which was a relief. Stupidly though, I didn’t even bother to write it up. If I had have done, I would’ve been further along with my studies as well as had more material for the book. Still, it gave me more time to discover alternative options. A blessing and a curse, I assure you. I’ve set the whole of my second year as one project toward the book and the final assignment will simply be either a long entry or a several shorter entries. It is almost hanging on a planned trip to Paris in August. It will give me exactly thirty days to write it all up. However, if it all goes to plan, I’ll be needing a ton of research to make it worthwhile. And I still have real life to contend with as well as the training for the London marathon. The closer to October we get, the longer the training runs, and the less time to which I need to quickly proofread, edit, tweak a little more and then decide that it’s good enough to hand in a vaguely coherent fifteen-thousand-word piece of creative nonfiction.